Telkom stays silent on pressing issues

2014-08-31 15:00

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Telkom held its annual general meeting this week and it was the time to give answers to a number of questions –?but none was forthcoming.

The questions included the reasons chief financial officer Jacques Schindehütte was leaving after an internal investigation into personal misconduct and what was happening with CEO Sipho Maseko’s licence plate-swap claims.

On Schindehütte, chairperson Jabu Mabuza only assured shareholders that he would not receive a golden handshake.

Mabuza said he would only receive what was stipulated in his contract because he had chosen to retire early.

There was much mystery around the suspension of Schindehütte. Mabuza said he had wanted to leave since former CEO Nombulelo Moholi had resigned in late 2012, but he had been asked to stay to ensure some stability.

Speculation was rife that his suspension, which lasted from October last year until his recent “retirement”, had something to do with an insider trading inquiry relating to shares he had bought in September last year for about R6?million. But this was dismissed by Telkom, which said the allegations were of personal misconduct.

Mabuza said the disciplinary process was prompted by an independent forensic report on Schindehütte’s conduct and that the board would not apologise for the way it had handled the issue.

He said there was a nondisclosure agreement with Schindehütte, which Telkom plans to honour.

Maseko said his replacement should be announced in two weeks, but would not say if this was an internal or external person. The acting CFO is deputy CFO Deon Fredericks, who has been overlooked for the position several times in favour of external appointments.

Mabuza said Maseko’s licence plate issue was a personal matter.

Maseko has been accused of cloning car licence plates. The Star reported that he was under investigation by the Joburg Metro Police Department for possibly cloning his car licence plates.

According to the report, businessman Mabena Motshoane had received fines totalling about R30?000 for offences that occurred allegedly with his car. But he discovered that Maseko had the same plates. Incidentally, Maseko had sold Motshoane his old Range Rover.

“This is a matter of a personal nature and we have been satisfied with Sipho’s answers that he is submitting himself to the authorities and he’s conducting himself within the ambit of the law,” said Mabuza.

An issue Telkom has had to explain is the appointment of consulting firm Bain Group to help it with its turnaround strategy without going through an open bidding process.

The major bone of contention is that since government is the largest shareholder in Telkom (with about 50%), it needs to comply with the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA), which lays out the procedure for state companies to procure goods and services.

Mabuza said since he had become chairperson, he had appealed to the communications minister to have the designation of state-owned company removed from Telkom.

It has the designation despite being partly privatised and not wholly owned by government. This means it is exempt from some provisions of the PFMA, which governs procurement for state- owned companies. But Mabuza said the board was satisfied with Maseko’s explanations regarding the matter.

“The CEO has various authorities, including the appointment of consultants,” said Mabuza.

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