Eskom clears COO of all wrongdoing

15th April 2020 By: Donna Slater - Creamer Media Staff Writer and Photographer

Eskom clears COO of all wrongdoing

Eskom COO Jan Oberholzer
Photo by: Creamer Media's Donna Slater

After being accused by a fellow employee of corruption, conflict of interest, dishonesty and abuse of power, power utility Eskom COO Jan Oberholzer has been cleared of all allegations by an external Senior Counsel.

The complainant made the numerous accusations against Oberholzer in March through the media and civil society organisations.

Consequently, the Eskom board appointed an external Senior Counsel to conduct an investigation into the allegations and to advise the board and the group CEO Andre de Ruyter on the way forward.

 

The Senior Counsel commenced his investigation from March 20 and his report was submitted to the Eskom board on April 4.

As part of his investigation, the Senior Counsel was entitled to interview any person, to review any documentation, including documentation provided by any Eskom employees and third parties that he deemed appropriate for the purposes of the investigation.

In his terms of reference, among others, the Senior Counsel was tasked to investigate whether there was any undisclosed conflict of interest by Oberholzer pertaining to construction group Stefanutti Stocks, or any other entity, which may potentially result in breaches of the Conflict of Interest Policy of Eskom.

The Senior Counsel also had to look into whether, since his return to Eskom in 2018, Oberholzer, in his dealings with any functionaries of Stefanutti Stocks, breached his fiduciary duties and any policies of Eskom.

In addition, the Senior Counsel was required to investigate whether there is any corruption or personal benefit derived by Oberholzer arising from the placement of the engineering and construction company Black and Veatch contract in 2007, or subsequently from his involvement in the Black and Veatch contract.

 

Meanwhile, the circumstances that led to the complainant being transferred from his position as Eskom megaprojects (capital division) GM, to the human resources department involved any malice or wrongdoing on the part of Oberholzer. The Senior Counsel was required to also look into whether such transfer was done in accordance with the applicable human resources policies of Eskom.

With reference to the transfer of the alleged whistle-blower, the investigation could find no wrongdoing in the process followed by Oberholzer.

While the investigation found that the relationship between Oberholzer and the employee who made allegations of victimisation had been characterised by tension, the Senior Counsel did not find that there was victimisation or that any further legal processes should follow.

The Senior Counsel conducted his investigation by interviewing witnesses and reviewing the information and documentary evidence provided by the witnesses, including the complainant and other Eskom officials.

 

The Senior Counsel found no basis to the allegations of dishonesty, corruption, conflict of interest and abuse of power levelled against Oberholzer.

With regard to the allegations of a conflict of interest regarding Stefanutti Stocks, the Senior Counsel found that proper disclosure had been made of Oberholzer’s shareholding in Stefanutti Stocks, and he should therefore not face a disciplinary hearing.

In considering the Black and Veatch contract, the Senior Counsel could find no fault or other improper conduct on the part of Oberholzer in terms of this transaction.

Meanwhile, Eskom is defending a claim of R42-million against Aveng, which is scheduled to be argued in the South Gauteng High Court during May. The Eskom board will therefore await the outcome of these proceedings before deciding whether there is a need for any disciplinary action against any employee.

On all the other allegations against Oberholzer that were put before the Senior Counsel, the board said it was satisfied that these had been fully and adequately ventilated and investigated, and that there is no cause for any action against Oberholzer.