Eskom CEO Andre de Ruyter has denied wrongdoing in the appointments of a number of senior employees at the power utility over the course of 2020.
This comes after suspended chief procurement officer Solly Tshitangano claimed De Ruyter was racist by giving preference to white-owned companies in the awarding of supplier contracts and subverting protocols to appoint white persons in key positions at the company.
Tshitangano’s allegations came after Eskom suspended him in late February 2021, citing under-performance in curbing spending at the utility.
The claims have spurred Parliament’s Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA) and Eskom to launch investigations into De Ruyter’s conduct.
Before SCOPA suspended its probe pending the outcome of Eskom’s own investigation, De Ruyter had submitted a 53-page affidavit to the committee in which he rebuked Tshitangano’s allegations.
Among the points addressed by De Ruyter, he outlines the circumstances and timelines of key appointments made during his tenure.
The first appointment is that of Werner Mouton, who was appointed Eskom’s Senior Manager of Fuel Sourcing in January 2020 on a three-month fixed-term contract.
Tshitangano has alleged that Mouton was a former colleague of De Ruyter while he was working at Sasol.
In addition, Mouton had supposedly been appointed at a rate of R200,000 per month after being interviewed by De Ruyter on a Sunday.
According to Tshitangano, this was done without the necessary contract being in place. De Ruyter’s affidavit, however, paints a different picture.
De Ruyter said Tshitangano had requested additional expertise, approved Mouton’s appointment, and signed his initial contract of employment.
De Ruyter provided email correspondence to substantiate his claim.
Mouton’s contract was extended repeatedly after he had become integral to Eskom’s cross-functional team mandate to ensure the cost-effective procurement of fuel.
De Ruyter said Mouton was instrumental in delivering an R800-million saving on fuel expenditure during the 2020 financial year.
Subsequent extensions of Mouton’s contract were concluded with the necessary approvals and required processes followed, he said. He also provided documents with Tshitangano’s signature to this effect.
De Ruyter added that Mouton was not his friend or family member. He added that prior to his appointment, he had never met or interacted with Mouton.
Tshitangano has also claimed that the appointment of Pieter Le Roux as Eskom Senior Manager for Procurement and Supply Chain was irregular.
He alleged Le Roux was part of the same panel that conducted interviews for the position to which he was appointed.
Contrary to this, however, De Ruyter said that no interviews were necessary or conducted in the appointment of Le Roux.
This was because Le Roux was sourced internally as part of the reshuffling of Eskom personnel to a revised generation division.
De Ruyter said this reshuffling was extensive and was performed in consultation with the Group Executive of Human Resources and the Chief Operating Officer, both of whom accepted the outcome of the appointment.
“Mr le Roux was therefore appointed after all proper processes had been followed and after thorough consideration of all suitable candidates,” De Ruyter said.
He added that as part of the changes at the Generation Division, the General Manager for Finance who was previously a white male, was replaced by an African female.
This was because De Ruyter and “a number of other executives” deemed the white male incumbent as not meeting the required performance standards of the position.
“In no way can it, therefore, be suggested that the changes in management were motivated by ulterior racial motives. On the contrary, performance and delivery were the criteria for filling these positions,” De Ruyter stated.
In addition to the complaints around the appointment of Mouton and Le Roux, Tshitangano has raised issues with the appointment of Eskom’s Head of Internal Audit and Assurance.
According to him, this required the involvement of the company’s Audit and Risk Committee.
De Ruyter, however, said there was no requirement for the committee to be involved in this process.
“All proper processes were followed in the appointment of Eskom’s Head of Internal Audit and Assurance, Company Secretary, and Chief Information Office,” De Ruyter said.
“The appointments were considered and approved by Eskom’s People and Governance Committee and Eskom’s Board, as required.”