Business News 19.10.2017 07:34 am

Koko disciplinary hearing off to a wobbly start

Koko disciplinary hearing off to a wobbly start

Investigators ‘reluctant to testify’.

The disciplinary hearing of Eskom’s suspended acting CEO Matshela Koko was adjourned on Wednesday three hours into the proceedings, after the prosecutor abandoned his line of questioning and went looking for reluctant witnesses.

Koko was suspended following media reports that Eskom awarded lucrative contracts to Impulse, a company in which his stepdaughter was a director and in which she held a significant stake. This indicated that Koko had a possible conflict of interest.

The hearing was initially set to start on Monday, but the chairman Advocate Mzungulu Mthombeni was not ready to proceed. He was apparently appointed at the last minute.

Due to his unavailability during normal working hours the proceedings were scheduled from 16:30 to 21:30 on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. If necessary the matter will continue on Saturday and Sunday.

At the beginning of the proceedings on Wednesday the prosecutor, attorney Sebetja Matsaung, complained that the investigators who did a forensic investigation upon which the charges against Koko are based, were reluctant to testify.

He said law firm Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr was appointed by Eskom to investigate allegations against Koko. They in turn appointed Nkonki Inc. to do the forensic work. Matsaung said Nkonki and Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr each refused to testify, saying the other is better placed to do so.

He then started to present the case against Koko by calling Eskom chief advisor for assurance and forensics Daphne Morwalle. Morwalle testified about the Eskom system to lodge declarations of potential conflicts of interest. She testified that the declaration Koko made in February this year does not look like the electronic declarations made on the Eskom computer system.

Advocate Frans Barrie SC for Koko objected to her testimony and said it is irrelevant since the there is no dispute that Koko did make a declaration. He said Koko has not been charged with making the declaration in the wrong format.

Matsaung cut Morwalle’s testimony short. He called his next witness, Eskom employee Johan Scholtz who is responsible for information system support, including the e-forms on which declarations are made. After a similar objection from Barrie he released Scholtz without putting a single question to him.

Matsaung then asked for a 15 minute adjournment to call the Nkonki investigators to the witness stand, but later asked to adjourn to Thursday, as none of the three people he tried to contact answered their phones. “I don’t know if it is deliberate”, he told the hearing.

He stated that he did not draft the charge sheet and complained that he is bound to it.

Eskom has brought six charges against Koko. Four of the charges relate to his stepdaughter’s stake in Impulse and his alleged failure to properly declare his possible conflict of interest.

The fifth charge relates to an instruction he gave in February to Eskom’s project director at Kusile Frans Sithole, to remove the consultancy Arup Tata’s project manager Gobal Kambi, the company GTC and Eskom senior manager for contract management France Hlaukudi from the project.

Koko allegedly failed to give a proper reason for his instruction to Sithole and Eskom group executive for group capital Abram Masango.

The final charge that Koko faces is that he undermined the Kusile tender committee by removing its submission to negotiate with ERI for cabling units one to six and instructed that it should be awarded to ABB.

Koko has pled not guilty to all the charges.

He explained that he only learnt of his stepdaughter’s involvement in Impulse in August or September last year. He argues that it was unnecessary for him to make any disclosure to Eskom at that stage, since he took steps to prevent a conflict of interest.

He says he became aware in February this year that his stepdaughter put her stake in a trust and accordingly made a declaration to Eskom. This declaration was accepted by then Eskom chairman dr. Ben Ngubane and was adequate, he argues.

Koko says he acted according to his duty and obligations as acting Group CEO at the time with regard to his instructions to remove certain officials and company from Kusile.

The hearing will continue on Thursday.

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