One of the pertinent questions the Eskom board will have to answer to parliament is whether it takes seriously its fiduciary responsibility, which is to provide oversight over the public utility’s finances.
According to unconfirmed media reports, Eskom caved in and suspended chief financial officer (CFO) Anoj Singh only after the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA) exerted pressure on Megawatt Park to place Singh on suspension as it investigates questionable financial deals.
The bank is understood to have expressed an intention to withdraw a R150-billion loan extended to Eskom. According to experts this would would have triggered similar action from other financiers. DBSA refused to comment on the matter.
Joining the chorus for the board to take action against the CFO was Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba. Although refusing to be drawn into whether he attended the alleged meeting with Public Enterprises minister Lynne Brown where the Eskom board was allegedly read the riot act, Gigaba told media the situation at Eskom was worrisome.
Gigaba stressed this morning that it was important for the inquiry on state capture to interrogate the allegations surrounding Gupta-linked companies and the Gupta brothers turning state-owned entities into cash cows to take place to “separate fact from fiction”.
Echoing the minister’s sentiments was acting chairperson of parliament committee on public enterprises Zukiswa Rantho. She told The Citizen the committee would be asking the Eskom board and Singh tough questions, as most of the “allegations reported in the media surround the CFO”.
“We are of the view that Eskom was not taking action on the CFO despite availability of evidence. That’s what we want to investigate. We also believe the board is not taking its fiduciary responsibility seriously.
“The answer from the board [in its previous appearance before the committee] was that the matter is subjudice,” Rantho said.
‘If they don’t want to appear, we have the powers to subpoena them.’
The acting chairperson emphasised the committee would be inviting persons of interest from Eskom, “but if they don’t want to appear we have powers to subpoena them”.
Although the committee has not yet issued the invitations, she said they were hopeful that those invited would cooperate, thereby eliminating the need for parliament to take the legal route.
“We have not yet issued the invitations because we don’t want to commit mistakes during the preparation for the inquiry. We don’t want to do anything going wrong. We want the process to be effective,” she explained.
Among those Rantho confirmed the committee would be grilling in the middle of August include former CEO Brian Molefe, Singh, the suspended group executive of power generation, Matshela Koko, as well as current Eskom board members.
The committee is understood to have preferred Adv Ntuthuzelo Vanara, a senior legal adviser to parliament who was the evidence leader during the SABC ad-hoc committee hearings in 2016, to lead evidence.
“We were told that he has now been assigned to the ethics committee, and due to his heavy work schedule, he will not be able to lead evidence. But we are told he can assist. We have also given the legal people two weeks to go through the evidence. We hope to start in mid-August,” Rantho said.
In a statement issued last night, Eskom announced Calib Cassim would take over as the interim head of finance, while Brown “noted” the suspension of Anoj Singh.