She came, she saw and she conquered. That about sums up former Public Enterprises Minister Barbara Hogan’s three-day testimony at the commission probing allegations of state capture, chaired by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo.
Over and above her testimony, she was asked by the chair at the end to prepare a document on the functions of the boards of state-owned enterprises (SOEs) and how to make them effective.
The gist of her testimony centred on hindrances she encountered from the Union Buildings at such SOEs as Eskom, Transnet and SAA.
She traced the genesis of her trouble thus: “A simple, but important job of appointing a CEO of Transnet after the resignation of Maria Ramos at the end of February 2009 became the site of an ugly, protracted battle between president Zuma and I, in which he thwarted all the legal and legitimate procedures that I took to obtain Cabinet approval for any appointments whatsoever to Transnet, including the appointment of a CEO.
“As a consequence, Transnet had an acting chairperson, an acting group CEO and acting CFO, and later on an acting CEO in one of the divisions, Transnet Freight Rail, for one-and-a-half years.”
Hogan assumed her position with the requisite skills, it appears.
“In Parliament I served in various capacities. I was chair of the Parliamentary Budget Committee. I chaired the Parliamentary Committee on Finance.
“When I was in prison I was not allowed to continue with my Master’s and I was only allowed to do a BCom degree - which turned out to be very useful because in a newly emerging democracy, economic and accounting skills were very important.
“So I chaired the finance committee, we passed the Public Finance Management Act, the Municipal Finance Management Act, we set in process the procedures to reform the SA Revenue Service, which had completely collapsed during the apartheid years. I later served as the chair of the standing committee of the auditor-general.”
No wonder the former president appointed her to his Cabinet, a move he would clearly later regret.
“In 2009 there were the elections and president Zuma appointed me as minister of Public Enterprises, and I served in that capacity until he removed me about 18 months later at the end of 2010.”
She told the Zondo Commission she was always at odds with the then-president on how and who should be appointed to the boards of the SOEs.
Zuma wanted Jacob Maroga at Eskom, even though, Hogan insists, Sipho Maseko was the best candidate.
She spoke at length about the yo-yo movement of the resignations-that-were-not-resignations of Maroga, who boasted that he had the backing of “the shareholder at the highest level”, a clear reference to Zuma.
The same situation existed at Transnet, where Siyabonga Gama was Zuma’s anointed, even when he was facing disciplinary charges.
Evidence leader advocate Phillip Mokoena SC asked Hogan: “Can a president instruct you as the minister, or instruct the board as to which CEO must be appointed?” Her response was emphatic: “No. My understanding in the founding legislation of the various institutions over which I had oversight is that there is no envisaged role for the president.
“The president chairs the Cabinet, and I would imagine that if the president has concerns about a particular candidate or whatever, it would be at that Cabinet meeting that those concerns would be raised. But I have not been able to find an instance... where the president has the executive authority to instruct a minister to do this or that. You know, to appoint this particular person or not appoint that person.”
Hogan added: “There were nine SOEs. The Department of Public Enterprise does not cover all SOEs, but there were extremely important ones. There was Eskom, Transnet, SAA, SA Express, Denel, Infraco, PBMR, Alexkor and Safcol. They were entrusted to my care.”
At some point, Zuma showed interest in and made enquiries about Safcol, the SA Forestry Company Limited, because, she was told, “the Guptas were interested in it”.
Hogan was very clear on how boards at SOEs should be allowed to function: “There is a handbook that government gives, that government issued and which Cabinet adopted in 2008 which prescribes in very clear terms how the minister should go about appointing, and it is a very, very careful process because you want to have the best people and the most knowledgeable people to run this company.”
Then she referred the Commission to a 2013 document by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) on the appointment of boards at SOEs. Hogan said the OECD ran courses on corporate governance.
The Sunday Independent