Scopa outraged as Eskom conducts parallel probe into CEO André De Ruyter
Cape Town - The Parliament’s standing committee on public accounts (Scopa) on Wednesday expressed outrage that power utility Eskom was now investigating allegations of racism and abuse of power against its CEO André de Ruyter, more than a year after they were made.
This happened when the committee met to consider a request by Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan that they halt its inquiry.
Eskom chief procurement officer Solly Tshitangano made the allegations against De Ruyter to the committee last month as it was holding hearings into the entity’s 2019-20 annual report.
Eskom has since appointed Advocate Ishmael Semenya, SC, to conduct the investigation into allegations made to board chairperson Malegapuru Makgoba in February last year.
“I certainly do not take kindly to Eskom jumping the gun in the manner it has and pre-empting the process which was unfolding when they sat on the issue for 14 months,” Scopa chairperson Mkhuleko Hlengwa said.
“It is also a credit to this committee that we are able to trigger the entities and departments to do which they must do,” Hlengwa said.
ANC MP Mervyn Dirks said they were in a dilemma after Eskom decided to institute its own investigation, and it was disingenuous to do an investigation when Parliament decided to do their own inquiry.
Dirks noted that Tshitangano submitted the serious allegations to the board more than a year ago, but no action was taken by the board, executive or Gordhan.
“Because we are responsible MPs and there is nothing personal I would suggest that the committee consider suspending our investigation and await the outcome of the Eskom inquiry,” Dirks said, adding that Scopa should keep a close eye on the probe.
DA MP Benedicta van Minnen said there were other issues at Eskom that were urgent and deserved their attention.
She had warned Scopa not to be distracted by people who wrote letters a short time before a hearing was due.
“What I find difficult about the situation is we have now twice postponed hearings with Eskom pertaining to issues that are pertinent,” Van Minnen said.
Her colleague Alf Lees said their core business in terms of the annual report should proceed especially with Eskom, whether or not there was an investigation.
“We should not allow ourselves to be diverted by other issues. That is an important point to make. The crisis at Eskom is much bigger than this particular investigation which may or may not have validity at all,” Lees said.
ANC MP Bheki Hadebe hoped that the Eskom investigation would not be a malicious attempt to quieten the noise and complaints against De Ruyter.
“I appeal to Eskom to not in any way undermine the intelligence of this committee,” Hadebe said.
EFF MP Ntombovuyo Mente disagreed with halting the parliamentary inquiry, saying the committee was relinquishing its mandate.
“I am very much against us not going ahead with the inquiry and ensuring we satisfy ourselves as thee watchdog of the public purse and deal with matters that came to our attention through financial reports and SIU report,” Mente said.
Hlengwa said they did not surrender their responsibilities but it was to give the Eskom process under way the benefit of the doubt.
He also said it would have been preferable to continue with the inquiry, but there was merit in the argument that they should not duplicate activities.
“We will assess the Eskom report when it comes out from the senior counsel and satisfy ourselves whether every issue has been investigated as it should have been,” he said.
“I still give it credit to this committee that we were able to trigger people to do their work they need to do so. The flip side of the coin is they need to explain to us and the South African public why they sit on allegations that warranted an investigation and did not do anything about them.”
Hlengwa also said he hoped that the Eskom would be done thoroughly and correctly.