So rife was graft and malfeasance at Eskom during the Jacob Zuma presidency that former Eskom group chief executive officer (CEO) Matshela Koko found nothing sinister in exchanging at least 11 e-mails with Gupta business associate Salim Essa between April and November 2015, sharing highly confidential documents.
In his testimony at the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture yesterday, Eskom chair Jabu Mabuza said the current board of directors discovered that the power utility was “the main stage in the theatre of corruption” and they had to mop up the financial disarray left by former chair Ben Ngubane and former CEO Brian Molefe.
The extent of the rot was laid bare in a string of e-mails between Koko and Essa, that led to Koko being served with charges by an independent disciplinary inquiry ordered by Mabuza.
According to Mabuza, Koko was charged for breaching his duties, executive responsibilities, acting with conflict of interest – a conduct unacceptable in Eskom’s code of ethics – and for distributing highly confidential Eskom documents to Essa.
Using his personal e-mail account at Eskom, Koko shared information with Essa, which included financial spreadsheets on fuel, a letter from former public enterprises minister Lynne Brown, policy memos on the appointment of consultants, executive committee resolutions and procurement feedback on negotiations regarding online prepaid electricity vending.
Mabuza said when his new board realised that the earlier inquiry that cleared Koko of wrongdoing was a sham, “we had to pick up on transgressions that stuck and suspended him”.
Sean Maritz, another former interim CEO who was asked to clear his desk for Phakamani Hadebe to take over as the new boss last year, was charged for “breaching his duties and responsibility as an executive”.
This stems from his role in signing off on an alleged illegal R340 million kickback payment to a middleman, to secure a R25 billion loan from China’s Huarong Energy Africa to build or refurbish Eskom power stations.
“He was suspended on January 31, 2018, charged and resigned before March 2018 – a week after we confronted him with the charges,” said Mabuza.
He said Maritz was among eight former Eskom employees whose gross transgressions have been forwarded to law enforcement agencies the Hawks and the Special Investigating Unit for criminal investigation.
Others facing criminal and civil investigation include Anoj Singh, Edwin Mabelane, Prish Govender, Susanne Daniels, Charles Kalima and Koko.
“Since we took over, we have been pursuing a clean-up operation as recommended by parliament and the National Treasury. We have been able to get back into the Eskom account the R1.1 billion payment that was earlier wrongly made to McKinsey and are in the process of getting back the R600 million paid to Trillian,” said Mabuza.
Mabuza, who was appointed board chair on January 22 last year, said: “What we have drawn from our experience at Eskom is that procurement was the game and corruption the name.”
Mabuza painted a picture of a cash-strapped Eskom with a severe liquidity crunch. He continues his testimony on Monday.