PP dismisses claims Eskom failed to investigate misconduct allegations against COO Jan Oberholzer

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In one of three reports released on Tuesday, Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane said on Tuesday her office had found a complaint that Eskom had not investigated allegations of improper conduct and maladministration against COO Jan Oberholzer was “unsubstantiated”.  

Zwelinzima Vavi, the South African Federation of Trade Unions’ general secretary, lodged the complaint last year on behalf of Mark Chettiar, an Eskom employee. 

PP dismisses claims Eskom failed to investigate misconduct allegations against COO Jan Oberholzer
© Provided by Daily Maverick PP jan oberholzer eskom Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla / Netwerk24)

At a media briefing, Mkhwebane said: “Our investigation revealed that the allegation that Minister [of Public Enterprises], Mr [Pravin] Gordhan, [the] board of directors of Eskom and Eskom failed to investigate the complaint relating to various allegations of maladministration and improper conduct against Mr Oberholzer, and subsequent improper application of the Public Disclosures Act [PDA] is unsubstantiated.” 

In 2019 and 2020, Eskom commissioned three investigative reports related to varying allegations of improper conduct against Oberholzer, said Mkhwebane.

According to the Public Protector’s report, Chettiar “made a protected disclosure in June 2019 to the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture regarding certain contracts entered into between Eskom and a number of construction companies, citing the R42-million contract with Aveng Africa Proprietary Limited (Aveng Construction) as the one which points to corruption, abuse of power, nepotism and corporate mismanagement, for which [Chettiar] is now being victimised by Eskom”. 

In a report by advocate Nazeer Cassim on the allegations against Oberholzer, Cassim said “… Oberholzer acted contrary to the interests of Eskom in authorising or promoting [the] payment of R42-million to Aveng [Construction]”. 

Cassim recommended that “a disciplinary process be initiated in order to enable proper ventilation of this issue to be determined in a disciplinary hearing. More so, having in mind the intervention of representatives of the Zondo Commission who have made, it would appear, certain preliminary findings on this very issue. Eskom must factor into consideration that such payment is presently part of litigation between Eskom and Aveng.” 

Chettiar had also alleged that Eskom entered into a contract with Aveng Construction, which obliged Eskom to pay an amount of R42-million to it, although such payment was not warranted.  

About this, Mkhwebane said, “[It] was decided by the South Gauteng High Court on 11 September 2020, wherein Eskom was directed to pay Aveng Construction the amount of R40,087,353.06 together with interest. By virtue of Section 6(6) of the PPA, the Public Protector cannot investigate court decisions.” 

In conclusion, Mkhwebane said her office was “unable to make any findings nor take any remedial action. In light of the aforegoing, we have therefore decided not to pursue the matter any further and thus finalise it by means of a closing report.”  

Chettiar died in June from Covid-19.

Speaking to Daily Maverick, Chettiar’s wife, Prathani Chetty, said several media publications were reporting that Oberholzer had been cleared.  

“It is incorrect for the media to report that Oberholzer had been cleared. He’s never been cleared and Mark shouldn’t be defamed in his death.” 

The second report released by Mkhwebane was on whether Supra Mahumapelo, the former premier of North West, violated the Executive Ethics Code by facilitating the delivery of Bonsmara cattle to former president Jacob Zuma’s home through Agridelight Training and Consulting (Pty) Ltd in 2018. 

The EFF’s Godrich Gardee laid the complaint with the Public Protector. 

The story broke in the Sunday Times, which reported that the cattle, which were worth R1.5-million, were meant for emerging farmers in the province.

Gardee stated in his complaint that he would like to draw the Public Protector’s attention to ‘the particular involvement of the then president of the republic, Mr JG Zuma on the receipt of stolen goods and the current Premier of the North West, Mr Mahumapelo’s abuse of public trust and fiscus for private benefit,’ ” said Mkhwebane. 

She said she could confirm that Zuma did receive cattle from Agridelight and that, “This was also confirmed by the payments made for the cattle by Agridelight, the delivery of the cattle and the submission by Bolokang Montshwe, Agridelight’s managing director.”

While Montshwe insists that he personally donated the cattle to Zuma, Mkhwebane said his use of the company’s account, “and not his personal account to pay for the transaction does not support his version… the matter pertaining to the Agridelight’s flow of funds under Mr Montshwe’s management is receiving the attention of the law enforcement agencies”. 

Mkhwebane’s final report investigated allegations of undue delay by the national Department of Health in addressing the challenges experienced by clinical associates and the processing of “The Report of the Clinical Associate National Task Team 2017” for consideration and possible approval. 

Clinical associates are mid-level healthcare workers who work under the supervision of doctors, mostly in rural and “disadvantaged” areas, said Mkhwebane.  

Sanele Ngcobo, the secretary-general of the Professional Association of Clinical Associates in South Africa, laid the complaint with the Public Protector.

Around 2007, the Department of Health established a Clinical Associate National Task team. Its brief was to execute a 10-year review of what had been learnt while training more than 900 and appointing almost 700 clinical associates in the period 2007 to 2017, and how this applied to the present challenges faced by the health system, said Mkhwebane.

The Public Protector found there was “undue delay on the part of the department in taking the report through internal channels for its consideration and possible adoption following its completion in 2017, including relevant governance structures such as the internal audit and audit committees”.

The Department of Health committed to further formal engagements with the sector. DM

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