New Eskom boss pleads for space amid questions over his conduct

Johannesburg - Eskom’s interim group chief executive Sean Maritz on Thursday asked for "space and time" to do his job properly, including stabilising the embattled state utility.

Maritz's conduct at Eskom has come under the spotlight in weekend media reports.

But on Thursday he refuted claims that he deleted evidence implicating Gupta companies in controversial deals with Eskom, after the Sunday Times reported that two Eskom executives had accused him of this.

Maritz said the IT security system is built in such a way that no email can be deleted.

The new Eskom boss's comments come after Eskom pleaded on Sunday that Maritz be given a chance to lead the state-owned enterprise.

Maritz was also fingered for hiring a friend and fellow church member at a salary of about R100 000 a month, without declaring the friendship to Eskom.

Maritz acknowledged the oversight, but refuted suggestions that the awarding of the contract was irregular. He said the contract was adjudicated by a panel as per Eskom’s internal processes.

His six-month written warning in relation to conflict of interest expired in 2010 and has been duly expunged, Eskom said.

On Friday EWN also accused Maritz of having close ties with suspended former executive Matshela Koko, but Maritz stated earlier that he has not been in contact with Koko since his suspension. 

Koko was placed on special leave in May pending an investigation when it was revealed that a company at which his stepdaughter was a director netted at least R1bn in contracts from Eskom in just 11 months.

Five priorities

Shying away from the controversies, Maritz said his focus is steering Eskom towards stability.

He said the executive management team remains focused on its five priority initiatives. These include increasing demand for electricity, reducing primary energy costs, implementing advance analytics to deliver savings, releasing government guarantees, and ensuring the completion of the new build programme.

Eskom's sales are declining, reflecting a change in how its customers use electricity, he admitted.

“Globally, the electricity landscape is changing rapidly. Eskom is not immune to this change and we are facing threats on multiple fronts: within the South African electricity market, and within the broader global energy context," he said.

"With a wave of change in customer, supplier and competitor behaviour, we are facing a constrained electricity sales path."

He said potential sources of revenue growth range from those that are close to Eskom's current capabilities to those that are entirely new. "By exploiting both regulated and unregulated opportunities, we have an opportunity to deliver significant revenue impact."

Maritz said Eskom will do this by unlocking opportunities, focusing on local demand stimulation, cross-border sales and unregulated opportunities. "A clear distinction exists between the business of today and the Eskom of tomorrow, necessitating a focused and structured approach, which will ensure the right level of focus and drive for each identified opportunity.”

The power utility's board announced on Friday that it had appointed Maritz as the interim group chief executive, as part of a decision to rotate the position. Maritz's predecessor Johnny Dladla, appointed in June, will resume his role as CEO of Eskom Rotek Industries.

"The decision was made to give exposure to another member of the executive team without compromising organisational stability," said Eskom.

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