Former Eskom finance director Tsholofelo Molefe on Wednesday told the parliamentary inquiry into the power utility that executives, herself included, were suspended after they resisted pressure to sign agreements with people and entities linked to the Gupta business empire.
There was an element of mistrust.
Molefe testified that in 2014, then acting CEO Colin Matjila wanted her to approve a contract with Eric Wood’s company Regiments to put in place a plan for financial sustainability, but that she was convinced the company did not need and could not afford to outsource the function.
“We were able to do it ourselves,” she said, adding that the rate Regiments demanded was not competitive and that Eskom did not have a cent to waste. Moreover, proper procurement processes were not followed.
She said Matjila reprimanded her and gave a letter in which she explained her reluctance to approve the contract to the Eskom board to discuss. The proposal for Eskom to engage Regiments came from Salim Essa, a close business associate of the Gupta brothers who are at the centre of allegations of state capture.
Molefe said she found support from board members.
However, the board was changed and in March 2015, at their first meeting, decided to suspend Molefe, then CEO Tshediso Matona, Dan Marokane, the group executive for group capital, and Matshela Koko, at the time the group executive for technology.
Referring to Matona and Marokane, she said: “Certainly, the three of us said no to lots of things that were asked to be signed.”
She remarked that there was considerable mistrust between the Eskom executive and the new board, and that it was notable that board members she regarded as worthy were forced out.
“What is interesting is that the good members of the board were removed,” she said.
“I guess since the board came in there were always suspicions about what is the board coming there to do. There was an issue from management, and quite probably it was mutual. There was an element of mistrust.”
In March 2015, the board held its first formal meeting and decided to suspend herself and Matona.
According to Molefe, the decision was announced after Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown met with the board in private. The minister arrived at the meeting and complained that Matona had not dealt with the issue of information leaking from the board decisively.
“The minister was there, I am not sure whether she was there to recommend that we be suspended. She was not happy that Matona had not dealt with issues of bugs decisively,” she said.
Matona and herself were asked to recuse themselves. They were called back later in the afternoon and told that they would be suspended.
“I was told I had been asked to step aside because I am one of the executives responsible for one of the matters to be investigated,” Molefe said.
She said it struck her as bizarre that they were assured that they were not suspected of wrongdoing but ordered to hand over their laptops and warned that if they refused, they would face “further disciplinary steps”.
Molefe said they were told the inquiry the board wanted to institute would take three months but after two months passed she approached the board and learnt that it had not started.
She was eventually asked to agree to an amicable exit as it was no longer possible to work together.
– African News Agency (ANA)