Johannesburg - Eskom is “desperate” to get rid of people who are committed to fair, ethical and lawful practices, says Suzanne Daniels, the suspended head of Eskom’s legal department.
Daniels this week launched her bid to have her suspension overturned in an arbitration hearing at the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration.
According to Eskom, Daniels was suspended because she allegedly asked for a legal opinion from law firm Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr, which cost R9 600, and because she allegedly held a team-building session at the luxury Kievits Kroon Country Estate in Pretoria.
Daniels paid the R66 000 for the team-building herself.
In response to the charges against her, Daniels said that Eskom was usually slow to take action against senior officials who were involved in “serious financial mismanagement” and state capture.
Matshela Koko was reappointed as Eskom’s head of power generation after being found not guilty during a disciplinary hearing that was called a farce after witnesses decided not to testify against him.
Koko was accused of not declaring a conflict of interest involving his stepdaughter Koketso Choma, who did business with Eskom.
She has an interest in Impulse International, a multinational engineering and project management company.
Impulse was awarded Eskom contracts to the value of almost R1bn.
Daniels was first informed that she would be suspended by Johnny Dladla, then the CEO of Eskom, on October 2.
The initial allegations against Daniels were that she had a destructive management style, that documents relating to former CEO Brian Molefe’s departure from Eskom had been destroyed, that she did not provide information for a parliamentary question and that she arranged the Kievits Kroon excursion though she knew that Eskom would not pay for it.
On October 6, the day that Sean Maritz took over as acting CEO from Dladla, he confirmed her suspension.
According to media reports, this was two days after Daniels insisted that global consulting firm McKinsey and its local Gupta-linked counterpart Trillion repay R1.6 billion in irregular payments that Eskom had made to the company.
But the charge sheet Maritz sent Daniels differed from Dladla’s.
This time, it was alleged that she did not properly advise Eskom about McKinsey and Trillion.
She was accused of negligence because a report to Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown was based on a preliminary investigation and the report did not make this clear.
On December 14, these charges were withdrawn by Elsie Pule, who took over from Maritz.
New charges were instituted against Daniels, including that she allegedly approached Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr for legal advice after a grievance procedure against her was initiated and the legal bill was sent to Eskom.
Daniels allegedly also arranged for Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr to pay for the team-building session because Eskom’s internal administration process would take too long.
The law firm would then send the bill to Eskom.
Pule argued that Daniels knew that Eskom, on instruction from Treasury, was not allowed to pay for team-building or social events, and that no events could take place that had not been budgeted for.
Daniels responded that she had the right to request legal advice as a consequence of her executive position.
The grievance procedure was withdrawn because the issue was resolved during the team-building exercise.
She said they could not use Eskom facilities because they needed a “neutral venue to allow each employee to express him/herself freely”.
She felt she could justify the expenditure, given the aim and the expected outcome.
Two days before the team-building event, Daniels was informed that there was no budget for it. However, she didn’t want to cancel it because she felt it would be bad for the team’s morale.
That is why she contacted Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr.
She paid the bill out of her own pocket on October 6.* Sign up to Fin24's top news in your inbox: SUBSCRIBE TO FIN24 NEWSLETTER