Eskom COO cleared of all wrongdoing in Aveng payment dispute

25th September 2020 By: Marleny Arnoldi - Creamer Media Online Writer

Eskom COO cleared of all wrongdoing in Aveng payment dispute

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

The grievance procedure brought against Eskom COO Jan Oberholzer has been brought to finality and he has been cleared of all wrongdoing in a payment dispute with a contractor, construction company Aveng, power utility Eskom said in a statement on September 25.

Following a court’s findings against Eskom on a payment dispute with Aveng, Eskom approached Advocate Nazir Cassim, seeking his counsel on the way forward in his investigation into an employee’s grievance against Oberholzer.

This court judgement, which was delivered in the South Gauteng High Court on September 11, was the only outstanding matter related to the grievance.

In his investigation report into the grievance against the COO, Cassim had directed Eskom to take disciplinary action against Oberholzer on the allegation that he had favoured the interests of Aveng above those of Eskom by pressuring the employee to settle a R40-million invoice due to the contractor.

Cassim had also advised the State-owned power utility to await the outcome of the court case before taking any action.

The High Court ruling has now vindicated the COO’s stance on the payment dispute with Aveng.

In a subsequent opinion, Cassim cleared Oberholzer of all wrongdoing on this matter, which brings the grievance procedure against the COO to finality.

“The Eskom board strongly condemns persistent, unfounded and scurrilous allegations against Oberholzer, which have not only served to distract management’s attention away from the very critical job of correcting the poor performance of Eskom’s generation plant, but have also unnecessarily brought disrepute to Eskom and dragged the name of a key and dedicated employee into non-existent corruption scandals,” Eskom said.

The board affirmed its full confidence in Oberholzer’s integrity and would continue to lend him all the necessary support to enable him to fully perform his job at Eskom.  

Meawnhile, Eskom noted the High Court judgment on the Aveng matter and said it would comply with court order accordingly – paying R40-million to Aveng, plus interest, until the debt is settled, as well as the applicant’s legal costs in the case.

Eskom had contracted Aveng for the design, refurbishment and optimisation of the rail yard and coal offloading facility at the Majuba power station.

Five payment disputes arose between the parties, resulting in an independent adjudicator awarding Aveng’s claims against Eskom during April and May 2019.

Eskom settled three of the disputes, and on the advice of the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture, withheld payment on the remaining two disputes.

When Eskom failed to pay the remaining two claims, Aveng approached the High Court to enforce the payment.