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Fuming MPs send Anoj Singh packing from Eskom inquiry

2017-12-06 01:46

Suspended Eskom chief financial officer Anoj Singh was sent packing from the ongoing inquiry into the power utility’s governance failures without uttering a word on Tuesday.

Singh arrived at the inquiry with his lawyer running 37 minutes late for his 2pm appointment with the public enterprises committee which is investigating the state-owned company.

Soon after they were seated, MPs led by the inquiry’s chairperson Zukiswa Rantho began lashing out at Singh for inconveniencing the committee by submitting requested information at the eleventh hour.

Rantho revealed that the committee first invited Singh through the Eskom board in July and also requested specific documents from him.

Previous attempts to get him before the inquiry were not successful as he sent apologies saying he was not ready to appear and requesting to be given more time to prepare.

The committee also supplied him with the relevant information which he had requested. As a result the committee postponed the inquiry twice over the last two weeks to accommodate this request.

He, in turn, only submitted the information required hours before his appearance despite having known about the committee’s request for months.

In the 20 minutes he spent before the committee, Singh was not even given a chance to say a word as MPs led by Rantho, who was uncharacteristically hostile, berated him.

“We then gave you the date of today, and in all those instances we were waiting for you to give us documents that you said you need to collect … then we were left with your response for you to send documents to the committee,” said Rantho.

“In our biggest disappointment we received your documents at 11 o’clock last night, the document with 400 pages,” said an exasperated Rantho.

Singh had sent the 400-page bundle to the inquiry’s administrative staff on Monday night, leaving MPs little time to read it as the inquiry sat at 9.30am.

“The evidence leader was hoping to go through your documents but because your documents came last night, we could not read a single page of what you have said to us.”

The committee decided it could not continue with Singh’s hearing as it was not well-prepared.

It also warned him that when he returns, possibly next year, he would have to pay for his own ticket to the inquiry.

“We are a committee of Parliament that takes responsibility on everything, even with the finances of Parliament; there is a body that looks at the budget of Parliament and it makes Parliament account for the money it used.

“We are not like Eskom where we would feel that if it is necessary for us to give our friends a certain amount, we just give our friends that amount and we don’t take responsibility on anything; that is not us. Whatever we do in Parliament, we account to the public,” said Rantho, before giving Singh his marching orders.

Other MPs supported her stance and voiced their unhappiness over how Singh has dealt with the committee.

Earlier, the committee had heard that former Eskom CEO Brian Molefe worked for at least five months at the power utility without an employment contract.

This was revealed by Eskom’s manager for executive support, Anton Minnaar, when he was pressed for answers on the terms of Molefe’s employment.

Minnaar, who for the past 17 years has had “the exclusive function of the executive support department to provide an administrative support service to the Eskom board, chief executive, executive committee and to all senior executives at the power utility” had a difficult time giving his testimony as MPs, including evidence leader Ntuthuzelo Vanara, poked holes in his testimony around the events surrounding Molefe’s “early retirement”.

While questions remain over whether Molefe was a permanent employee of Eskom or a contract worker with a fixed term, Minnaar didn’t help the situation as he claimed that Molefe was “a permanent employee with a term”.

ANC MP Lungi Mnganga-Gcabashe charged that the failure by Eskom to change Molefe’s benefits when his fixed contract became a permanent contract was done deliberately, saying it couldn’t be that “all of you with all these good minds, all this experience and long term service, none of you thought of getting clarity on what is it that is entailed in a five-year contract”.

Minnaar insisted that “the procedural things were followed correctly” but that questions should be raised on how the chief executive started his employment without a contract.

“That must be in place even before he actually starts. In the private sector you won’t get a guy who starts working and then say, determine my contract and my payment over the next month and then decide what you want to do. In principle that is wrong,” he revealed.

He said the delay in drawing up Molefe’s contract was due to months of discussions between the board and the minister in finalising the contractual issues.

Molefe started working for Eskom in October 2015 but he only signed his employment contract in March 2016.

In the meantime, Eskom had drafted a normal standard employment contract which was shared with the human resource subcommittee and Molefe.

Quizzed by Mnganga-Gcabashe on how Molefe was paid without an employment contract in place, Minnaar revealed that he was paid based on the remuneration approved by Brown.

The matter over whether Molefe was a contract worker or permanent employee is at the heart of whether he deserved a pension payout from the power utility.

Minnaar said even when Molefe’s permanent title was changed to a five-year fixed-term contract, his benefits were not renegotiated and did not change.

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December 17 2017