Call for shakeup at Eskom: 'It’s very stale. No one gets in or out'

02 November 2017 - 11:54 By Kyle Cowan
File photo.
File photo.

Eskom insiders are praying that when Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown appoints a new board as promised in November‚ those who take over will have the business acumen to turn the embattled power utility around.

One of the first tasks the new board will have is to appoint a permanent CEO. Eskom has had only acting chief executives since June‚ after the final axing of Brian Molefe.

His replacement‚ Johnny Dladla‚ acted for 107 days before being replaced by the parastatal’s head of IT‚ Sean Maritz.

The Black Business Council (BBC) expressed concern over the move and at the time chairperson Sello Rasethaba said they had met with Eskom’s top management early in October and emphasized that they would not tolerate corruption and bad leadership.

Allegations of inappropriate conduct relating to state capture have resulted in the suspension of people in critical posts at Eskom‚ particularly those involved in allegedly rubberstamping the McKinsey/Trillian deal worth R1.6-billion. This includes chief financial officer Anoj Singh‚ group executive for generation Matshela Koko as well as former head of procurement Edwin Mabelane‚ acting head of group capital Prish Govender and senior procurement manager Charles Kalima. They are facing disciplinary action after evidence of possible criminal wrongdoing was brought to light by G9 Forensics.

More recently‚ head of legal Suzanne Daniels was also suspended‚ days after she sent a letter of demand to Gupta-linked Trillian and global consultancy McKinsey to pay Eskom back. She is challenging her suspension at the CCMA.

Essentially‚ some of the group’s most critical positions are in limbo. But despite the tumultuous events in the executive suites‚ Eskom workers on the ground have managed to produce an excess electricity generation of 23%.

One senior staff member‚ speaking on condition of anonymity‚ said the biggest frustration at Eskom was that the current executive committee had been in place “forever”.

“It’s very stale. No one gets in or out. We need a fresh executive team who have some commercial experience‚ if we are to become independent of government finance and sustainable.”

The risk of losing years of technical experience was little‚ argued the staff member‚ as there are many employees “in the lower ranks” who with slight training could run departments.

“We haven’t had a proper board since 2011. We need a full complement of commercial strategists who can be a sounding board to the chief executive and CFO. Because of extremely limited experience [in the board]‚ they tend to operate at operational level and have no clue what a board's role is.”

Eskom for the most part ignored questions sent relating to the matters raised by the staff member.

“Minister Brown has recently indicated that she would appoint a new board before the end of November‚” said Eskom spokesperson Khulu Phasiwe. “Staff turnover the past year was approximately 4%‚” he said‚ adding that the Eskom group headcount at 2016 year end was 47 658.

“Eskom regularly conducts surveys on its employees in order to address the issues that are of concern to them. Once the survey is completed‚ it will be shared with the employees in their respective units or operating centres as has been the case over the years‚” Phasiwe said.

A staff memo‚ seen by TimesLIVE‚ indicates that the results of a survey underway will be used to disprove allegations over staff being “without any sense of morale or hope for the future”.