Home South African Eskom accused of snubbing contractor at centre of storm

Eskom accused of snubbing contractor at centre of storm

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Econ Oil’s Nothemba Mlonzi says that her company has still not been called to make representation or told of their R5.2 billion fuel supply contract status.

Andre de Ruyter, group chief executive of state-owned power utility Eskom this week appeared before Scopa. Picture: REUTERS/Sumaya Hisham

WITH Eskom CEO Andre de Ruyter being called to account for the allegations of purging black suppliers and undermining the role of black managers, the contractor at the centre of the storm – Econ Oil – says she still has not been contacted by the power utility.

Econ Oil’s Nothemba Mlonzi has told Independent Media that her company has still not been called to make representation or told of their R5.2 billion fuel supply contract status.

The company and Eskom are at loggerheads over the cancellation of the R5.2 billion contract.

A forensic investigation conducted on behalf of the power utility recommended “the immediate suspension and ultimate de-registration of Econ Oil from the Eskom Vendor Database”.

But the recommendation flew in the face of the company’s policy which stipulates that before a contractor can be de-registered, it has to be awarded an opportunity to make representation.

“We were never advised, let alone called upon to make representations. We only learnt about the cancellation in the print media, social media and Eskom media statement,” Mlonzi charged.

Her claims come against the backdrop of the power utility claiming that it had given Econ Oil “adequate time” to make representation on numerous occasions.

Eskom spokesperson Sikonathi Mantshantsha has maintained that Econ Oil has been given adequate time to make representations on why its position as a supplier should not be reviewed.

“And at its own request the extension for it to make the submission was extended three times. Instead of presenting its case, Econ Oil did everything it could to prevent the Supplier Review Committee in order to consider this. This includes asking the high court during the weekend to prevent the committee from meeting. The court threw out these requests and awarded costs against Econ Oil,” Mantshantsha said.

The stalemate between Eskom and Econ Oil has also opened a can of worms. The power utility’s chief procurement officer, Solly Tshitangano, wrote a scathing letter to Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan making numerous allegations against De Ruyter.

He accused De Ruyter of being hellbent on removing black suppliers without following proper procedures and being lenient on white-owned companies.

Tshitangano has since been suspended from the power utility.

Mlonzi said the suspension of Tshitangano makes sense as to why the company has never been given a fair chance.

“We have been submitting our quotations, responding to their public calls for ad hoc requests to supply, but no advice on outcomes. Now that we read about the suspension, it makes sense as it was unusual not to get the outcome of a quotation whether you are successful or not,” she said.

De Ruyter has now been asked to account for his actions. Parliament’s Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa) has called for an investigation into the allegations against him.

This week, Scopa suspended a hearing where Eskom was set to make representation on expansions and deviations for the financial year of 2020/21, annual report for 2019/20 and investigations by the Special Investigating Unit (SIU).

Scopa said it suspended the hearings to consult with the Parliamentary Legal Services on the appropriate approach when conducting the investigative inquiry.

“Scopa received correspondence from the CPO, which had a material bearing on the matters which the committee would have dealt with in today’s hearing. Some of the allegations contained in yesterday’s letter were brought to the attention of the Board of Eskom as far back as February 2020.

“The committee will be investigating the very serious allegations levelled against the group chief executive officer (GCEO) of Eskom specifically, as well as procurement and contract management in general. The GCEO will be granted an opportunity to respond to those allegations,” Scopa said in a statement.

Mantshantsha said the power utility was willing to co-operate with Scopa and further added that procurement at Eskom has long been an area of particular concern to the board and continues to be an area associated with state capture.

“The Board of Eskom, therefore, wishes to affirm its support and confidence in the executive management of the company in instilling a high-performance culture, including the application of appropriate consequence management in accordance with Eskom’s internal disciplinary processes. The board has complete faith in the company’s internal processes and governance procedures to deliver a fair process and outcome on the matter of the suspended chief procurement officer,” he said.

Tshitangano’s allegations have also seen labour unions gunning for De Ruyter. The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) said it was highly disturbed by the allegations of racism.

“These are indeed serious allegations and disturbing in their nature and character. We cannot condone this apartheid tactical style of leadership. The NUM stands firm in its support for the Parliament’s Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa) to probe the allegations against De Ruyter. The NUM calls on Minister Pravin Gordhan to start taking a human shape; the minister must desist from taking the shape of an amoeba animal.

“It must be understood that it is against the law of this country to display racist behaviour. Whenever racism shows its ugly head, it must be dealt with and defeated. What is more disturbing is that the Public Enterprise Minister Pravin Gordhan seems less interested in remedying the situation,” the union said in a statement.

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) said it was concerned about the future of Eskom under the leadership of De Ruyter. Spokesperson Phakamile Hlubi said they were told that his appointment would mean an end to load shedding, but that is not the case.

“Last year, we experienced the worst round of rolling blackouts this country has ever seen with at least 49 days of power cuts, and the expectation is that it will only get worse. De Ruyter clearly does not have a clue how to stop load shedding and we doubt that under his leadership, he ever will. It is clear that the governing party has taken the side of white monopoly capital and is offering Eskom up for their benefit,” she said.