Committee Inquiry into Allegations against Eskom CEO; with Minister

Public Accounts (SCOPA)

03 March 2021
Chairperson: Mr M Hlengwa (IFP)
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Meeting Summary

Video: Standing Committee on Public Accounts, 3 March 2021

Annual Reports 2019/20

In this virtual meeting, the Committee was supposed to discuss Eskom’s 2019/20 Annual Report, the entity’s 2020/21 deviations and expansions as well as SIU investigations.

Before the Committee could proceed with the agenda, the Chairperson informed the Committee tht he hd received correspondence the previous day from the suspended Chief Procurement Officer of Eskom. The correspondence received levelled serious allegations against Mr André de Ruyter, Eskom: Group Chief Executive (GCE). The Chairperson asked the Board of Eskom to respond to the correspondence sent and asked the Committee its view on the matter. The Chairperson of the Board stated that Eskom was aware of the grievances and allegations made by the CPO since February 2020.

The Committee members proposed that the meeting could not proceed without the suspended Chief Procurement Officer present as his signatures were on all of the applications for deviations and expansions. The Committee wanted the CPO to come and account. The Chairperson said that a Committee investigative process must ensue on this matter given the importance of Eskom. Parliamentary Legal Services would be consulted and an inquiry into these allegations would be held as soon as possible.

Meeting report

The Chairperson welcomed the members of the Committee to the meeting. He welcomed the Minister of Public Enterprises, the Board of Eskom and all officials of Eskom to the meeting. The meeting this morning was a continuation of the meeting last week which had to be postponed. The purpose of this meeting was to discuss the annual report of Eskom, SIU investigations, deviations and expansions. The Chairperson said that yesterday the Committee received correspondence from the Chief Procurement Officer of Eskom, Solly Tshitangano, which was sent to a number of structures including the Standing Committee. He said that matter needed to be sorted out first. Last week Mr Dirks asked a question about the whereabouts of the CPO. The Committee was informed by the CEO that the CPO was on sick leave and that he had been suspended. The Committee was now in receipt of correspondence from the CPO. That issue muddied the waters somewhat. Before the Committee proceeded with the meeting, he wanted Eskom to take the Committee into confidence about that issue. He did not want Eskom to get into the merits and demerits of the allegations against the CPO because that was Eskom’s internal matter. He wanted Eskom to explain where things were at this point. He then wanted the members to discuss the matter. He wanted Eskom to talk to the correspondence sent the previous day. Last week two things were said to the Committee. It was said the CPO was not in the meeting because of sick leave and because he was suspended. He handed over to Eskom to respond to the questions about the status of the CPO so that there was clarity.

Professor Malegapuru Makgoba, Board Chairman, Eskom, responded to the matters raised by the Chairperson. As far as the Board and executive management was concerned the CPO was suspended and there was a disciplinary inquiry by an independent process that was going to take place. The history behind this matter went back over a year. There had been an exchange of letters to himself, the office of the President, to the office of the Minister and others. Eskom was in the process of a disciplinary inquiry against the CPO. He urged that everyone observe that internal process and await its outcome. Some of the issues could not be addressed in this meeting which went to the heart of the procurement process because it involved the office of the CPO. That was where a problem may be. He said the matters of deviations and expansions happened under the guidance of the CPO. He suggested that the internal process of Eskom be left to take its course. Eskom would then come back to the Committee to provide a full response as to what had happened. At the moment there was more to the story than appeared in the correspondence. He was not at liberty to go to the depth of that. There was more to this story that was not being said that has to do with what was going on. He pleaded with the Committee that it let the internal process take its course. He promised to report back to this Committee the full story that would be uncovered by the independent process of a disciplinary enquiry.

The Chairperson thanked Prof Makgoba for his explanation. It was important to raise this matter from the outset of the meeting. The context of the correspondence that the Committee received had a material bearing on the issues that related to procurement and the allegations were very serious. The Committee had to make a determination on how it dealt with the matter while at the same time observing the protocols of the disciplinary process that Eskom was undertaking. The matter needed to be dealt with because it stemmed from the meeting last week. It had been brought to his attention that there were other correspondences that were sent which he had not yet seen. There was correspondence sent to him on 16 and 17 February which he was still going to look at. Had he known that he had been sent this correspondence he would have raised the matter then.

He said that deviations and expansions, fruitless and wasteful expenditure were primarily the focus of the Committee. There were some allegations made against the CEO which presented a very serious and complex dilemma in that the CEO would be responding to questions.

The Chairperson said that he was not derailing the meeting. He believed that this matter required the Committee’s attention. The Committee needed Eskom to explain what the status was of the formal compliant made to the Committee. He did not consider it whistleblowing. It was an official, within Eskom, presenting very serious allegations to the Committee.

Mr M Dirks (ANC) agreed with the Chairperson that the issues being discussed in today’s meeting had a material bearing on what the letter from the Chief Procurement Officer stated. The Committee could not brush the matter aside and continue. There were serious allegations that were raised by the CPO and it would have a bearing on what the Committee was discussing today. He did not want the issue to be confused. When Prof Makgoba was responding to the Chairperson’s questions he indicated to the Committee that Eskom needed to be allowed to continue its disciplinary process. He agreed with that. The Committee would not interfere with the disciplinary process within Eskom but that was not what the Committee was discussing. The Committee was not discussing the internal disciplinary process of the suspended CPO. That should be put to one side. Serious allegations of irregularities were made against the CEO of Eskom. The Committee needed clarity from the Board because these allegations were made prior to the CPO being suspended. He had three questions for the Board. After the Board responded he wanted to ask the Minister a question. He wanted the Board to explain what was the governance process that was followed when allegations of irregularity were reported to them? What was the governance process that Eskom needed to follow when it received a complaint of irregularity? When did the Board become aware of these allegations that the CFO raised? Lastly, he wanted to know what action the Board took when it became aware of the allegations. This had happened long before the suspension. He asked Eskom to not bring the suspension and the disciplinary process into this discussion because it was not part of the discussion. He wanted to know what the Board did when these serious allegations were raised. The Committee received a letter from the CPO and could not become bystanders on this matter. The Committee needed to take action on this matter because it had officially been raised with SCOPA. He wanted a response from the Board to those three questions.

Ms B van Minnen (DA) said that SCOPA worked with a schedule. This hearing had already been delayed since last week. The Committee needed to work through it. The Committee received the documents a long time ago. She pointed out that in the documents the Auditor-General raised the issue of procurement and that there were serious issues with procurement. She said that SCOPA needed to be careful. It concerned her if the Committee started responding to letters it received 24 hours before the meeting that completely changed what the Committee was supposed to be investigating. The Committee already had the documentation and the annual report that was the subject of this meeting. She was very concerned that it became easy to pre-empt SCOPA’s agenda by going down populist directions that distracted the Committee from the work that it needed to do. She thought that the Committee needed to move forward with the hearing as scheduled. The Committee had been told by Prof Makgoba that there was an independent inquiry. She was concerned that if the Committee started airing these issues now that it might compromise that. That needed to be taken into account. The Committee could not discuss this matter without potentially discussing the disciplinary process implications and procedures of Eskom. She did not want a precedent to creep in where it was possible for people who had grievances, whether valid or invalid, to start hijacking SCOPA to go down populist avenues instead of doing the work that it was supposed to be doing.

Prof Makgoba responded to Mr Dirk’s questions. He answered what processes the Board of Eskom follows when allegations of irregularities arose. Eskom had a grievance procedure process and system. If anyone had allegations or complaints that needed to be raised then it would be raised through the processes that were entrenched and approved in Eskom over the years. That was the grievance process that was followed at Eskom. Everyone presented their grievance or allegation to that process and not to the Board. Prof Makgoba became aware of Mr Solly Tshitangano’s issues in February 2020. Mr Tshitangano sent him a letter that was also sent to the office of the President and the office of the Minister. He went through the allegations that were contained in the letter and came to the conclusion that this matter was in the realm of the executive management. The reasons for this letter arose when the CEO confronted Mr Tshitangano about his performance. These complaints did not arise spontaneously out of somebody wanting to complain about the GCE. It was because the GCE had confronted the CPO on his performance that Eskom received these complaints.

Mr B Hadebe (ANC) intervened and said that he did not want the Committee to get into the merits and demerits of the allegations. The Committee should not listen to assumptions. The Committee needed facts to be presented. He sensed that Prof Makgoba was saying that what the CPO officer raised was prompted by his performance. Mr Hadebe did not think that has been proven to be a fact. It might be Prof Makgoba’s view. The Committee did not want to engage in views, suspicions and understandings. The Committee wanted to deal with facts before it.

Prof Makgoba said that he was presenting facts. He was not presenting views. He was responding to Mr Dirks’ question. He was not going into the merits of the allegations.

The Chairperson said that the members should wait to get the full responses, which was the perspective of the Board. He said that as uncomfortable as the answers might be, the Committee should get the answers. He wanted the record of the Board.

Mr Hadebe said he was just cautioning Prof Makgoba. The Committee must not find itself looking at the merits and demerits of the allegations and in turn compromising the case. That was what he was cautioning against.

The Chairperson said he fully understood Mr Hadebe’s point.

Mr Dirks said he had asked three simple, straightforward questions. He did not ask what gave rise to the allegations made by the suspended CPO. He just wanted to know when the Eskom Board became aware of these allegations. The other question was what action did the Board take? He asked simple questions. He did not ask about what gave rise to these allegations and for the justifications for it. He just asked three simple questions because he needed to ask a follow-up question thereafter.

The Chairperson said he heard the points the members were raising. He said it was important, in order for the Committee to get into the work it had, for the Chairperson of the Eskom Board to conclude his response. The Committee would then make a determination on how it would move forward.

Prof Makgoba explained that Eskom had a complaints procedure that everyone must follow. He received these complaints in February last year. The action that was taken was to refer back to the exco and the procedures that needed to be followed which was the grievance procedure that was now being followed.

Ms V Mente (EFF) recalled that last week the Committee postponed the issue of the annual report due to reasons that were forwarded by Eskom. Then the Committee had to deal with deviations and expansions.

She said that an aspect of procurement became a basis of the deviations and expansions that the Committee was dealing with. If one looked at how the Committee wanted to probe into the expenditures, the irregularities and the contribution of Eskom into deviations and expansions it became clear that the Committee needed to understand from officials who were responsible for those requests. Procurement processes had a head who was the Chief Procurement Officer. The Committee therefore requested that this meeting must have the CPO. The CPO was not present in the previous meeting because he was sick and because there was a suspension. Eskom also said that his suspension was not based on the deviations and expansions and the annual report. The Committee made a recommendation and took a resolution that it must have this meeting today where the CPO would be summoned to come and respond about his signature that appeared on deviations and expansions. That was the basis of SCOPA’s primary task and that was how it probed all of these other Departments. The issue was that yesterday the Committee was forwarded this correspondence on allegations by the CPO that he had made way before this annual report and there was no action taken. When the annual report was about to be probed, there were very serious irregularities and concerns that had been picked up by the AG. What was the basis of the Committee’s own investigation? It was on how Eskom spent the public purse. The majority of what occurred at Eskom was procuring services. The Committee wanted the person responsible for procuring services in the meeting. The Committee was not going to get into any of the merits of the disciplinary hearing that Eskom was undertaking. The Committee had no business interfering in Eskom’s internal affairs. Eskom must continue with its disciplinary hearing. All the Committee wanted was for the Chief Procurement Officer to take the Committee through letters that had his signature. His signature was for requesting procurements that majority of which was turned down by National Treasury. Why were those things happening? What consequences have been taken by Eskom? If the CPO was not in the meeting then how was the Committee going to investigate the irregular expenditure which was very high? How was the Committee going to go to deviations and expansions? She was sitting with letters that had Mr Tshitangano’s signature requesting deviations from National Treasury that were turned down. The Committee wanted to understand the processes? Why did it get there? What was going to happen? The Committee could not be subjected to the very same unfair treatment that happened last week. Last week the CEO called on different people to answer questions. The practice of SCOPA was to have the signatories of the letters explain to the Committee why they did not follow the processes and other similar questions. Then those people must be charged. That was what the Committee would say in the hearing. The Committee did not want to hear a subordinate talking on the behalf of an executive. The Committee would not get anywhere. The basis of this hearing was for the people who have signatures that have requested deviations, that were responsible for irregular expenditure that had been incurred by Eskom, to answer themselves. Then the Board and the CEO should take action against those people. That was what the Committee wanted to know. The issue of the disciplinary hearing was neither here nor there. The questions raised by Mr Dirks were relevant because the letter the Committee received was saying that these allegations were raised long ago. They were not investigated by the Board. They were not investigated by the DPE. Now all of a sudden the person who raised the matters was suspended. That was an unfair labour practice. He was an employee and that was why he raised the allegations. The Committee was not going to shy aware and say that it was interfering. It had been brought to the Committee’s attention. The Committee wanted to hear from Eskom what action it took and how it led to the disciplinary hearing. That needed to be answered. The Committee needed to play the role of being the public representatives for everyone.

The Chairperson said that the Committee needed to find a conclusion on this topic.

Ms N Tolashe (ANC) said that she was concerned about the space that the Committee was in now. The Committee adjourned the meeting last week with the understanding that the CPO would be in the meeting today to come and account. The Committee was not going to accept anything less than that. When this decision was taken all the officials were present. No one advised the Committee to say that the CPO would not be part of the meeting. The Committee would not have agreed to this meeting if that was not the case. She wanted the Board to explain to the Committee whether what they were saying today was consistent to what was discussed and agreed to last week about the absence of the CPO and the rearrangement of this meeting? She did not want the Committee to be taken into areas that it should not be. She wanted the Board to take the Committee into its confidence and provide clarity. The Committee was going to proceed in doing its work; however it could not create an impression that there was no understanding between the Committee, the Board and the executive about the rearrangement of this meeting and the people who were supposed to be here. The CPO was not present in the meeting last week because he was off sick and because of the suspension.

She said that letters should not be sent 24 hours before SCOPA sits because that was a disruption. The Committee should ignore correspondences that were sent 24 hours before the meeting because it confused the entire meeting. For instance, the Chairperson had to apologise for not reading a letter than may have an important bearing for this meeting. That was out of order. The Board and executive should correspond with the Chairperson in time such that he had an opportunity to read the letters and find a way to move SCOPA forward. She did not think sending letters in between meetings was going to assist the Committee going forward. She wanted the Board to provide the Committee with clarity before moving onto anything else.

The Chairperson clarified that the correspondence from 16 and 17 February was from the CPO. It would be circulated to the members.

Mr Hadebe explained his interjection from earlier so that he was not quoted out of context. He said there was the principle that no one should be judged without a fair hearing. He was trying to protect the Board Chairperson from appearing as if he had already taken a view or position on the matter of what informed the allegations of the CPO without those matters having been tested. It appeared as if he was indicating that the complaint and letters sent to the Committee by the CPO was not genuine. He constantly said that there was more to the story. He was trying to protect Prof Makgoba from venturing into that territory. His interjection was not meant to disrespect Prof Makgoba. It would be uncomfortable for him to sit in a meeting where a decision or a perception had already been created into allegations that the Committee viewed as serious as articulated in the letter sent by the CPO. The Committee was not privy to details. He was warning the Committee to not venture there. It was a dangerous statement to say that the Board knew what informed those allegations without testing them. That was what he wanted to caution. If that indeed was the view of the Board then the Committee was in trouble.

The Chairperson said that there was no interpretation that Mr Hadebe was being disrespectful. The point Mr Hadebe made was taken.

The Chairperson, at that point, wanted to hear the Board’s thinking on the matter and now had heard it. The reason he raised the matter was not to say that the Committee was not having a hearing. The matters were substantive enough that they required the Committee’s attention. The Committee needed the clarity of Eskom on the issue of the CPO so that the Committee was in a position to respond accordingly to the matters. The Chairperson of the Eskom Board indicated that the allegations were received in February 2020. That was 13 months ago. These issues were now continuously being raised. He was not suggesting that the Committee was chasing the media headlines. The Committee took note of what occurred in the public domain because this was a Public Accounts Committee. It was a totally different matter when the issues were placed before the Committee. The Committee must be able to respond to these matters. It took him by surprise last week that it took the Committee’s probing to be told that the CPO was suspended when the Committee was dealing with issues that were in the CPO’s purview. Ordinarily the Committee would not have known that the CPO was suspended and would have found out through the media. The lack of upfrontness was problematic. The Committee was now saddled with allegations which were being made against the CEO. There were two options. Either the Committee ignored the correspondence or the Committee could deal with it within the parameters of due process which was fair to the one who was raising the issues but also fair to the CEO. The issues were very serious in his view. He did not think the meeting could proceed without the Committee having dealt with the letter when the allegations were made by the CPO against the CEO. The seniority of these two persons in the organisation, with such a huge budget and such national importance, meant that the Committee needed to deal with it. He suggested that Mr Hadebe go into the annual report and Ms van Minnen would be on standby to deal with investigations. There was also the issue of the deviations and expansions. The Chairperson suggested, as this was not without precedence, that if the Committee was going to deal with this matter in good faith he would have to consult with Parliamentary Legal Services on how to deal with this complex matter. The issues of the CPO predated his suspension and were raised in various structures well before his suspension. He did not think the letter of the CPO was in response to the suspension because the issues had been raised prior. The allegations were very serious. The CEO would be afforded an opportunity to address the Committee and respond to the allegations that have been made against him. The Committee should not go down the path of issues being raised and not be addressed. His view is that a Committee investigative process must ensue on this matter given the importance of Eskom. He would consult with Parliamentary Legal Services and set up a process that would look at these matters. A Committee investigative hearing would be scheduled as soon as possible while observing all the necessary legal protocols. Eskom would also be allowed the necessary space and time to pursue its own disciplinary processes as the Chairperson of the Board had reported to the Committee. The Committee commended the fact that where there were issues they be investigated by Eskom and when there were disciplinary processes due they must be pursued. He was sure that the CPO was competent enough to respond at that platform on issues which were placed before him on the allegations of a disciplinary nature. He would observe the protocols of the disciplinary processes there. The Committee was now saddled with allegations which had a material bearing on the issues of procurement, deviations and expansions and irregular expenditure. The Committee was duty bound to deal with it then. He proposed that the Committee explore that process.

Mr Dirks agreed with the Chairperson that the Committee needed to consult with Legal Services because it needed to do an investigation regarding these serious allegations made against the CEO. The Committee needed to investigate the allegations. He disagreed with the Chairperson that Mr Hadebe should continue with the meeting today. The matters before the Committee today were exactly the issues that were raised in the letter which was raised 13 months ago. 13 months ago the issues were raised and the Board did not act. The Chairperson of the Board stated that he saw the allegations and then had informal discussions with the CEO regarding the allegations from the CPO. The Committee was dealing with the very same issue in today’s meeting, the deviations and expansions, that was raised in the complaints against the CEO 13 months ago. He did not know how the Committee could proceed in the absence of the CPO. That was why last week the Committee adjourned the meeting. He did not know if the Committee would do any justice to this matter if it proceeded with the meeting. He suggested that the Committee look straight into the investigative process and postpone this meeting.

The Chairperson said that the matters specifically related to the CPO will be subjected to the process of an investigative Committee inquiry first so that the matters could be dealt with. The issues would be put before the CEO as they had been sent to the Committee. There was precedence of SOCPA doing this. He proposed that the Committee hold an inquiry into this matter as a matter of urgency. He wanted to hear the other members reaction to the proposal. He also wanted Mr Hadebe to deal with the annual report.

Mr Pravin Gordhan, Minister of Public Enterprises, said he had not received the letter that the Committee was discussing so he was in the dark about what letter the Chairperson was referring to. He said that there was a letter sent to his office, although not from February 2020, and it had been referred to the Board. The Board Chairperson had made reference to it. In the previous meeting the Committee dealt with the 2019/20 financial year matters and then the Committee asked questions about the 2020/21 financial year.

He said that the Committee having an inquiry was well within its hands. One of the difficult jobs of a CEO was to ensure that managers that report to him perform according to their brief. Arising from that various actions can in fact emerge. The issue of how managers deal with lack of performance was important. He agreed with the Committee that the disciplinary processes within Eskom must continue because that was part of fair labour practice in South Africa. While the Committee received opinions on the inquiry, Eskom would do the same. He said it was important that none of what anyone was saying meant that aspersions were being cast on the integrity of the Board and the CEO.

The Chairperson said that no aspersions would be cast. He made the proposals precisely because the matters that were before the Committee have played out in the public discourse without them being tested within the parameters of due process. The process which he was proposing to Committee was in the collective interest on Eskom. The correspondence, which the Committee was referring to, was sent in response to a letter from the Director-General of the Department of Public Enterprises. The CPO was responding to the DG of the Department of Public Enterprises. It was in that communication that he indicated that he was bringing these matters to the Committee’s attention. The Department’s DG should be in receipt of the letter being discussed in the meeting. If it was not the Committee would share the letter with the Minister and the Department. The letter would also be sent to the CEO so that he was afforded the right of reply to the Committee. That would enable the Committee to make an informed decision. No decision had been made by anybody. He provided an example of the Committee receiving correspondence by the leader of the UDM about the DBSA. The Committee was now providing an opportunity for all those who had been alleged to have done something to present their side of the story. The Committee did not want to receive correspondence and not act on it. Leaving these allegations untested became dangerous for Eskom moving forward. The letter would be shared with the Department. The Committee was not casting aspersions and not making a determination as yet. The Committee would be following a process and the Chairperson would communicate with the members through the course of the day when he had received guidance from Parliamentary Legal Services in order to establish process correctly. He asked for the members to respond to his proposals for how the Committee would move forward.

Mr Hadebe asked the Chairperson if he wanted the Committee to proceed without the CPO.

The Chairperson said that the CPO was only relevant to the matter of deviations and expansions.

Mr Hadebe said he was raising that even within the annual report that he was leading; there were issues of irregularities so he would have to be careful in raising those issues. He would have to put those issues aside and that would interfere with the manner in which he would pose questions. If the Committee wanted to deal with the matters then he was good to go. He would just be a bit disorganised in making sure that he ‘crucify the wrong Jesus’ in asking questions to the signatory of some of the documents. He was capable and equal to the task if the Committee wanted to proceed.

The Chairperson asked the Committee to make a determination on the matter so that it could use its time correctly.

Mr Dirks said he was of the view that the Committee would not be doing justice to the annual report in dealing with it in this piecemeal manner. The matter was discussed last week and it was very difficult in that meeting because the Committee could not get proper answers because the people who signed the report were not in the meeting. Last week the Committee said that it wanted the CPO in today’s meeting. He believed that the Committee would not do justice to today’s discussion if it continued with the meeting. He was of the view that the Committee should not proceed with the meeting. The Committee should only proceed after the investigation. He proposed that the Committee does not continue with the meeting. In light of the decisions taken last week the Committee could not proceed without the CPO being present. In light of the material effects of what was stated in the letter of the CPO in today’s discussion the Committee should not proceed with today’s meeting. The Committee would not do any justice to these issues if it proceeded with the meeting.

Ms Mente said that there was a resolution in last week’s meeting. Eskom should have informed the Committee that it was not going to happen and that it was going to be up to the Committee to use the mechanisms within Parliament in order for it to summon the CPO. The Committee said last week that the CPO was the head of procurement processes within Eskom and the irregularities when it came to expenditure were done at the level of the CPO. Therefore, the CPO had to be in the meeting to answer for himself. The Committee was sitting with letters that bore his signature requesting deviations that were not supposed to be requested which National Treasury turned down. He needed to answer what informed him to do such things. She said the Committee was not going to be subjected to the very same abuse that happened last week. Officials were just called on to answer. The Committee needed the people who had signatures on the letters requesting to spend money of the South African fiscus. If those people were not here then who was the Committee questioning? The disciplinary hearing must be continued by Eskom. The Committee had nothing to do with that. SCOPA’s mandate was to police public funds. In this case SCOPA was sitting with irregular expenditure of Eskom. Even in an annual report, that the Chairperson was suggesting Mr Hadebe continue with, the majority of SCOPA’s mandate has to do with the expenditure as raised by the Auditor-General and all the financial statements that were submitted by Eskom. The auditing team of Eskom must come and answer. SCOPA’s purpose was to look how Eskom misspent the public purse and how to forward from there. If the CPO was not here then who was the Committee talking to? There were over 20 deviations for quarter one, two and three. The Committee was ready to question the CPO. The Committee was not there to question people who stood in on the behalf of others. These people would not take responsibility for what was written on those letters. The Committee could not continue without the CPO.

Ms O Maotwe (EFF) agreed with Ms Mente. She recalled that last week even the Chairperson battled to understand who was who. The Chairperson even asked what the position of the people who were responding to questions was and the CEO could not answer that question. There was no executive management of Eskom to take responsibility and accountability. The Committee could not continue without the CPO because it was dealing with the issues of Eskom that involved the CPO. It would not make sense to set aside the questions that were addressed to the CPO. It did not work like that. The Committee wanted all of the officials in the same room because they all worked together. She proposed that the Committee postpone this meeting and seek legal advice on how Parliament would proceed on this matter. The CPO needed to be part of this meeting when the Committee discussed these issues.

Mr Hadebe said that he had a problem in raising certain issues of irregularities without the CPO being in the meeting. He said that ultimately the Committee did have an accounting authority present and the responsibility stopped with the accounting authority.

Minister Gordhan said that the CPO did not run Eskom. It was the Board, the CEO and the management team that ran Eskom. The top executive was there to respond to any questions pertaining to the annual report. The annual report was not only about deviations and procurement. The annual report was about the financial status and operations of Eskom. The CPO was suspended and therefore Mr Tshitangano did not have any status within Eskom at this time. The Board would have to decide, with the CEO, who took responsibility for the procurement area and respond to the Committee’s queries. He trusted that the Committee would take those factors into account as it came to a decision as to whether this meeting should be postponed or not. All of the officials had made special arrangements to be in this meeting to discuss the annual report while the Chairperson received clarity on legal matters.

The Chairperson said the Committee should separate the issues so that the process was clear. One, this was based on the precedence of how the Committee interacted with Eskom. Last week the responses were coming from different quarters. Members were expressing the view that the CPO was the signatory to the correspondence with National Treasury on Deviations and Expansions. That point needed to be made. The point the Minister made about the standing of the CPO within Eskom was pertinent to the disciplinary process that was being undertaken by the independent panel. The Committee, since it was part of Parliament, was allowed to call anybody to explain matters of public accounts. That was why the Committee needed to take this issue with caution and legal sensitivity on how it would proceed with the CPO. He understood that the Minister had made special arrangements to be in this meeting but it was not without precedent for the Committee to make special arrangements for meetings only for the invited guests to not be there. The first issue here was that the Committee had allegations that it had to deal with as it had done with other allegations before. There was agreement from the Committee that there would be an investigative Committee inquiry into the allegations that had been made consistent with how the Committee had dealt with the DBSA matter. The second issue was that there was the matter of deviations and expansions scheduled for today in the absence of the CPO. Ms Mente was the lead on that particular focus area. She made the point that the responses received last week were not satisfactory because the person directly responsible for processing that work within Eskom was not present. The Committee wanted to deal with the nitty gritty of the issues. Mr Hadebe, who was responsible for the annual report, indicated that he may find himself constrained in asking questions. This all flowed from how the Committee conducted Eskom hearings previously where responses were decentralised from line function officials who were responsible for them. The meeting last week was not satisfactory. Ms van Minnen raised the point that the Committee should not allow itself to be side-tracked. He agreed with her. He then discussed the issue of correspondence. The issues raised were as old as February 2020 which was 13 months ago. Therefore, these were not new matters that arose out of the scheduling of this hearing. He said it took the Committee’s probing to receive the information that the CPO was suspended and on sick leave. He was trying to distil all the matters for the members. He was summarising the issues raised in the Committee. He asked members one by one to indicate whether the Committee proceed with the meeting or not?  

Mr Dirks said that the Committee should not proceed with the meeting in line with all the reasons that were raised by members because the Committee would not do justice to the matters that were to be discussed.

Ms van Minnen said that this situation was unfortunate. This was the second time that the Committee was unable to proceed. She had an issue with that. This also underlined why online meetings were not satisfactory. Unfortunately, the Committee already used an hour and a half of the meeting. Time that was important was lost. She protested the meeting being postponed.

Mr Hadebe said the Committee had already lost an hour and a half. He aligned himself with the view of Mr Dirks.

Ms Tolashe said she supported what Mr Dirks proposed.

Ms Mente said that the meeting could only move forward with the people who have signed the documents. Therefore, the Committee should postpone the meeting until the CPO was able to answer the questions. The Committee should postpone the meeting.

Mr A Lees (DA) said he had nothing to add on what Ms van Minnen had said. He said the issue of the suspended CPO appearing before the Committee may require a subpoena given that his suspension made it impossible for Eskom to demand his presence in the meeting.

Mr S Somyo (ANC) said that while the Committee was dealing this these matters it had to be cautious of the legalities that came with them. The legal advice would be critical. After receiving that advice the Committee could then deliberate and deal with whatever aspect came the Committee’s way. Eskom should not be barred from dealing with their own internal challenges. It was there right to do so. Once the Committee received correspondence it needed to find a better way of dealing with it so that it did not interfere with the Committee’s role of oversight. He agreed with the Chairperson that the meeting should not proceed.

The Chairperson said that the Committee was in unchartered waters. He would forward the correspondence the Committee received to the CEO so that he was able to respond to the allegations made against him. The seriousness of the allegations was because the CPO had made allegations against the CEO. Once the Committee received legal guidance on how to construct the investigative hearing the Committee would schedule a way forward. He agreed that as the Committee resolved that the CPO had to answer questions related to his role in conjunction with the whole of Eskom. If he responded negatively to the invitation then the processes of subpoena would be triggered. A subpoena was not the first step. If he responded no then the Committee would resolve to send a subpoena. The Committee would also need to explore the legalities around his presence and to the extent that they would be binding to Eskom. He would be exploring those legal dynamics so that the Committee was not found wanting and so that it did not compromise the work that was being done at Eskom. The Committee’s purpose was to ensure functionality, effectiveness and efficiency. The Committee needed to hold everyone accountable. The Committee needed to always be legally correct in carrying out its roles. The Committee would be proceeding ahead with an inquiry into the very serious and grave allegations that were before it as well as the issue of the annual report. He thanked the Minister, the Chairperson of the Board, the CEO and the executives. He stressed that this was not a response to the ongoing public spat of all sorts of accusations that had been made. The matter was based on the fact that the Committee had received correspondence. When correspondence had a material bearing on the Committee’s work it had to take a decision. A process was going to unfold. The meeting was not postponed. It would be suspended pending the finalisation of all the processes the Committee was having. He would report back to the Committee later on in the day on the consultations with Parliamentary Legal Services that he would undertake once this meeting concluded.

Mr Hadebe asked the Chairperson to request that the next meeting be a physical meeting. The Committee wanted eye contact when it interacted with those that it would be interviewing.

The Chairperson said that Parliament had been granted permission to meet physically. The Committee Secretariat was processing all the applications with Parliament so that the Committee could make use of the rooms that had been prepared for Covid protocols. Those processes were underway. The Secretariat would communicate when the Committee would be granted permission to do so. It might not be all the meetings because other Committees were applying. That was a work in progress.

Mr Lees asked if those would be hybrid meetings.

The Chairperson said that the rooms used would be hybrid compliant.

The meeting was adjourned.  

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