The power utility was supposed to appear before Scopa but at the very last minute the board indicated via SMS they would not be attending.
ESKOM’S leadership is in hot water following a last-minute text sent to a parliamentary committee asking that it be excused from a meeting.
The move by those at the power utility has infuriated the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa) so much that MPs said the conduct by those tasked to oversee billions of rands at the parastatal had brought the credibility of the board into question.
The board was meant to brief the Scopa on matters relating to previous allegations concerning chief operating officer Jan Oberholzer as well as cases referred to law enforcement agencies, contracts and lifestyle audits.
The drama began when Scopa chairperson Mkhuleko Mhlengwa first notified the committee that Eskom board chairperson Malegapuru Makgoba had sent him a text message in the morning indicating that he wouldn’t make it to the meeting.
After informing the committee that Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan was not sent an invitation to the meeting, CEO Andre de Ruyter introduced his delegation without mentioning the board.
ANC MP Mervyn Dirks said the meeting had to be postponed because Gordhan was not sent a letter adding what made matters worse was that the members of the board who were present did not even constitute a quorum.
DA MP Alf Lees said: “I agree with honourable Dirks we must try to reschedule as soon as possible and not let the thing run away from us.”
ANC MP Bheki Hadebe said unfortunate circumstances should not happen in the future and asked what could have led the board to have a clash of meetings.
Hlengwa said although Eskom had sent documents, Makgoba sent his text message at the 11th hour.
This sparked outrage from Hadebe who couldn’t understand why the board did so.
“In terms of good corporate governance and ethical leadership, such tendencies are unacceptable and cannot be tolerated. We can’t be reduced into SMS as if they are communicating to their boyfriends and girlfriends on the eleventh hour where they schedule a date and now something happened and they can’t come,” he said.
Hadebe described the fiasco as not only unacceptable but utterly disgusting.
“They are completely disregarding us. For lack of a better word abasiboni (they undermine us),” he said.
He added: “I thought they sent a formal correspondence in the form of a letter and followed up by an SMS. You talk about a board entrusted to oversee billions of rands, a board that is supposed to keep lights of the country on at all material times.”
Hadebe further said: “When they are supposed to come, they have the audacity to send an SMS. Is it how they take the issue of accountability and the country?”
ANC MP Sakhumzi Somyo said Scopa should take the board to task over its apology.
“At least there must be some form of respect to deal with the committee of Parliament. That will have to be addressed when we meet them next week,” Somyo said.
But, Lees said they should not be surprised.
“The professor was appointed in an acting capacity late last year. He is the same person who was responsible for doing tremendous damage to the universities of Wits and the University of KwaZulu-Natal,” he said.
Hlengwa maintained that protocols were not observed over the desired professionalism which should exist at the entity.
“For it (text message) to arrive this morning is the fundamental issue,” he said.
Attempts by board member Pulane Molokwane to indicate she and another board member and company secretary were a few minutes late at the virtual meeting did not convince Scopa.
“We received the wrong link … Unfortunately, we joined a few minutes late. We are here. There are two board members that are here,” Molokwane said.
Dirks said the matter should not be debated because they had already decided to postpone the meeting to next Wednesday.
Hlengwa agreed, saying: “Unfortunately, we can’t accept that.”