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Energy experts concerned about ‘untouchable’ Eskom boss

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Energy experts bemoan “untouchable” Eskom chief executive Andre de Ruyter and allege he is in breach of his duty and his appointment.

Andre de Ruyter. Picture: Reuters/Sumaya Hisham

IN WHAT Econ Oil and Energy has described as a smear campaign against the company by Eskom group chief executive officer Andre de Ruyter, experts are concerned about the “untouchable” De Ruyter who faces allegations of racism, bullying of Eskom black officials and undermining of black companies.

The African female-owned company Econ Oil and Energy blasted Eskom for its hostility towards the company and claimed that allegations made by Eskom against Econ Oil were part of an orchestrated attempt to engineer reasons to make it look corrupt, tarnish its image, and halt services rendered by the company. Econ Oil believed it was being targeted while white-owned companies were let loose.

Econ Oil said the company was fiercely disputing the Bowmans’ report which made severe findings against Econ Oil, claiming that the company defrauded and overcharged Eskom by different amounts for the five-year contract Eskom awarded the company. Econ Oil is questioning how Eskom arrived at three hugely different amounts of “overcharging”, based on the same set of unchanging invoices.

“Over and above the R1.2 billion false claim, Eskom claims that we overcharged by two different amounts for the same five-year period starting in 2012, and for the same set of invoices. The two other false claims of invoicing on the same issue we have seen are a R397m claim allegedly based on the McKinsey report and a R500m claim based on the Trengove Report.

“How did Eskom arrive at three hugely different amounts of ’overcharging’, but based on the same set of unchanging invoices?” asked Tinyiko Mabasa, Econ Oil head of operations.

The company said that to satisfy itself and ensure there were no errors, it sought forensic services at great expense to investigate the claims of overcharging and all indications were that there has been no overcharging and that the formulas used by the Bowmans report were incorrect.

Econ Oil committed itself to making all necessary documents available to prove there was no wrongdoing on tits part. It also explained that it was confusing how Eskom made claims of overcharging when there were strict procurement procedures in place.

“The invoicing process at Eskom is rigorous and goes through a review process before Eskom approves and pays. Every invoice issued and paid is linked to the contract, which Eskom verifies,” said Mabasa.

According toenergy expert Ted Blom, De Ruyter’s conduct was in breach of his duty and appointment as he did not follow proper procedures to tackle the Econ Oil matter. He said De Ruyter applied double standards and acted unfairly on the cancellation of the Econ Oil contract. Blom lamented that De Ruyter was favouring white suppliers.

“The major issue is that De Ruyter did not follow established Eskom procedures with Econ and rushed to cancel the contract, whereas for a different company (white-owned) at the same time he followed procedure. He appears to be favouring white companies – if one is only after the spin/noise. The more important issue is equal treatment of all suppliers otherwise we get favouritism. De Ruyter is in breach of his duty and appointment,” said Blom.

Unions and political parties have called for De Ruyter’s head pleading with the government to remove him from Eskom. Experts bemoan the current lack of leadership and plan to turn around Eskom.

David Nicholls, a retired senior official at Eskom, said De Ruyter appeared to be influenced by a few groups instead of putting forward long-term plans to recover the country’s energy shortage.

“In terms of the long-term strategic objectives for Eskom there has been no clear vision expressed by Eskom. The company appears to be following the opinion formers, influencers and analysts in the public space rather than putting forward a long-term view that would recover South Africa’s critical energy shortage”, said Nicholls.

Eskom spokesperson Sikonathi Mantshantsha shrugged off the allegations of unfair treatment against Econ Oil, saying De Ruyter had conducted himself professionally and treated all suppliers fairly.

Mantshantsha added that De Ruyter had the support of the board and the minister of public enterprises, the legal entities that have the powers to appoint and dismiss the chief executive.