Parliament’s public finance watchdog, the standing committee on public accounts (Scopa), on Wednesday said it would go ahead with its inquiry into allegations of procurement irregularities levelled against Eskom CEO Andre de Ruyter.
This follows a letter received by the committee on Tuesday from the utility’s suspended chief procurement officer , Solly Tshitangano, who accused De Ruyter and other managers of sidelining black suppliers in supply chain processes, among other claims.
Scopa was scheduled to hold a hearing with Eskom on expansions and deviations for the financial year of 2020-21 and its annual report for 2019-20 as well as investigations by the Special Investigating Unit (SIU). But the committee suspended the hearing in order to consult with the parliamentary legal services on the appropriate approach when conducting the investigative inquiry.
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“The committee will be investigating the very serious allegations levelled against the group CEO of Eskom specifically, as well as procurement and contract management in general. The CEO will be granted an opportunity to respond to those allegations,” Scopa said in a statement.
Eskom board chairperson Professor Malegapuru Makgoba told the committee he became aware of Tshitangano’s allegations as far back as February 2020. He said the complaints by the procurement officer were not “spontaneous” and came after De Ruyter confronted him about his alleged poor work performance.
Makgoba said he referred the allegations to Eskom’s executive team to investigate.
“He sent me the letter he had copied to the office of the president and he also copied it to the office of the minister [Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan].
“I went through this letter with the allegations that were contained in it and I came to the conclusion this was a matter that was really within the realm of the executive management because the reasons for this letter arose when the CEO confronted Mr Tshitangano about his performance,” Makgoba said.
However, Scopa chairperson Mkhuleko Hlengwa said the allegations against the CEO were “very serious and complex” and needed to be investigated. He said the claims made by Tshitangano predated his suspension and he did not consider the letter to be a response to his disciplinary process.
“I believe this matter requires our attention and we needed Eskom here to take us on board on the status of what I can only now call a formal compliant leaked to the committee… here is an official in Eskom presenting to us very serious allegations,” Hlengwa said.
According to a Sunday Times Daily report, Tshitangano’s allegations against De Ruyter include claims that misled the media about halting the purchase of a single wooden mop at R238,000 and instructed that Eskom change payment terms for service providers from 30 days to 90 days without consulting suppliers in a bid to effect savings.