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Eskom's Koko breached suspension conditions‚ phone records show

24 January 2018 - 07:00 By Kyle Cowan And Stephan Hofstatter
Matshela Koko. File photo.
Matshela Koko. File photo.
Image: Supplied

Embattled Eskom executive Matshela Koko‚ who escaped dismissal through a sham disciplinary process‚ broke the strict conditions of his suspension by regularly contacting other Eskom employees‚ new evidence shows.

Koko has refused to resign while other implicated executives Anoj Singh and Prish Govender both resigned on Monday and Tuesday this week respectively. Koko is due to appear before parliament’s portfolio committee inquiry into corruption and state capture at Eskom on Wednesday‚ where he is expected to claim his innocence.

TimesLIVE came into the possession of phone records that show that Koko spoke telephonically to his colleagues - including chief financial officer Singh - after he was suspended on August 2 last year. His suspension notice expressly prohibited any contact with Eskom staff or suppliers.

These disclosures are likely to add to mounting pressure for Eskom to act against Koko as the new board‚ headed by Telkom chair Jabu Mabuza‚ embarks on a process to rescue the power utility and restore governance.

Singh and Govender‚ who was acting head of group capital‚ are implicated in a corruption scandal involving R1.6-billion paid to Gupta-linked Trillian and McKinsey.

It’s understood other senior officials have also been handed new suspension notices but Koko appears to be holding out‚ protesting his innocence.

Koko was suspended after his division awarded his step-daughter’s company contracts worth R640-million but was cleared of all wrongdoing in a disciplinary hearing. Several legal opinions recommended that Koko should also be charged for his role in approving the Trillian and McKinsey payments but this was not part of the charges. Leaked emails have also implicated him in favouring the Gupta purchase of Optimum coal mine.

In his written submission to parliament‚ Koko denied any wrongdoing in the McKinsey and Trillian payments or Optimum sale - casting himself as the victim of attempts to act against corrupt officials at Medupi and Kusile power stations. He accused the media of running a sustained campaign against him‚ which he described as "very hurtful". "I can make no further comment save to state that I have strived to comply and enforce compliance with Eskom's policies and procedures and have resisted attempts by a previous chairman of the board ... to pursue avenues that do not accord with Eskom's internal rules. I continue to subscribe to best practice corporate governance."

These protestations are belied by the evidence that Koko broke Eskom’s own governance rules during his suspension last year. The phone records show that among the employees Koko was in contact with after his suspension was Nathan Kouter‚ a security official with Eskom.

Asked about this last week‚ Kouter said he could not recall the phone calls. When pressed on Monday‚ Kouter referred detailed questions to Eskom's media desk.

The phone records show Koko was in touch with at least five other Eskom employees in the weeks immediately after his suspension. This despite his suspension letter making it clear that contacting Eskom employees could "interfere with or jeopardise" his disciplinary hearing.

TimesLIVE was able to reach several of the staffers Koko called‚ who referred queries to the media desk.

Koko was suspended following an investigation by law firm Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr when his division contracted his step-daughter’s company Impulse International. Koko himself signed a deviation order for a R65.8-million contract with Impulse just months before his step-daughter became a shareholder and director of Impulse. The deviation order meant that the contract was not subjected to a competitive bidding process.

Koko was placed on special leave for 60 days while the CDH investigation was being conducted. The phone records show that during the time he was on special leave‚ Koko made dozens of phone calls to Eskom employees‚ including the then chairman Zethembe Khoza‚ who quit at the weekend. Khoza did not respond to text messages requesting comment.

Although this is not technically in violation of his special leave conditions‚ it does appear questionable.

Koko’s disciplinary hearing was marred by allegations that it had been rigged in his favour after it emerged that the charge sheet had been watered down.

The hearing accepted Koko’s explanation that he’d submitted a memo to former Eskom CEO Brian Molefe declaring his potential conflict even though this would normally be captured electronically.

Eskom has repeatedly denied these allegations‚ maintaining that the process was transparent and fair.

Asked this week to comment on the evidence that Koko had violated his suspension conditions Eskom said it needed more time to investigate the allegation.

Koko accused TimesLIVE of running an "illegal intelligence gathering operation" and refused to answer specific questions. When pressed to respond to detailed questions‚ he said: "I have answered you. I have nothing further to say."