By Linda Ensor
The Eskom board were “in awe” of the achievements of former Eskom CEO Brian Molefe in stabilising Eskom and therefore supported the move to make his interim contract more long term‚ former Eskom director Venete Klein said on Tuesday.
Molefe had been seconded in 2015 for a three-month term from Transnet‚ where he had been CEO. He was then given a five-year contract‚ though the nature of this contract became the subject of dispute.
Molefe was alleged in the state of capture report by former public protector Thuli Madonsela of being key to the conclusion of coal contracts with Gupta-owned Tegeta Exploration and Resources.
Klein‚ a well-respected director of a number of prominent boards‚ gave testimony before Parliament’s inquiry into state capture being conducted by the public enterprises committee.
She conceded that the allegations of state capture had changed people’s minds about a lot of things. However‚ she insisted the decision to appoint Molefe was based on the information that was available at that time.
“The entire board‚ including me‚ was in awe of what Mr Molefe had been able to deliver‚ especially as he had done so with substantially the same executive team who had previously not known how to turn the load-shedding situation around‚” Klein said in her statement submitted to the committee.
“The turnaround experienced under Mr Molefe’s tenure had been particularly pleasing. Along with the rest of the board I was impressed by Mr Molefe’s performance and the immediate and significant strides that Eskom had made under his leadership. Mr Molefe demonstrated the expertise‚ urgent resolve and certainty of direction required to set Eskom on the right course.”
Klein was appointed a director by Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown in December 2014.
Klein told the committee she had opposed a board resolution to retrospectively ratify the earlier decision for Eskom to pay R43 million to host breakfast events over three years with Gupta-owned New Age newspaper.
Klein said her opposition was based on the fact that the resolution proposed not to take action against former interim CEO Collin Matjila‚ who had signed the New Age contract‚ in violation of his delegation of authority.
Another Eskom employee‚ Chose Choeu‚ who was also involved in concluding the contract‚ was still in the employ of the utility and Klein believed action should be taken against him. She also opposed the fact that there was no exit clause in the contract.
Of concern to Klein when she joined Eskom was the fact that the executive could conclude contracts up to R750m without board approval.
“This means that multiple substantial contracts could be approved and concluded on the authority of the executive and the board tender committee without the balance of the board ever coming to know thereof‚” Klein said.
“As a result members of the board are required to trust that the checks and balances provided by the corporate governance structures are adhered to and adequately ensure the rigour of all decision making processes. In addition‚ the board members rely heavily on the institutional knowledge and guidance received from the executive. This can result in difficulties from a corporate governance perspective.”
However‚ it subsequently emerged from media reports that pertinent information was not provided to the board by the executive or was inaccurate.
Members of the committee were unanimous in their condemnation of the allegations — if proven true — by evidence leader Ntuthuzelo Vanara that State Security Minister Bongani Bongo attempted to bribe him into withdrawing from the inquiry. They interpreted this as yet another attempt to intimidate the committee.
Parliament’s ethics committee is looking into the allegations and members of the public enterprises committee called for this investigation to be thorough and timeous.