How Matshela Koko survived

Johannesburg - The alleged failure of former Eskom chairperson Ben Ngubane and chief executive officer Brian Molefe to ensure compliance with Eskom’s declarations policy seems to be one of the main reasons Eskom executive Matshela Koko escaped liability in his disciplinary hearing.

Koko was reinstated after being found not guilty by the parastatal’s widely criticised internal disciplinary hearing, chaired by advocate Mzungulu Mthombeni.

Koko was found not guilty of all six charges of misconduct he faced. This was despite the record of the findings, which City Press has seen, confirming that the only people who could confirm his declarations of a possible conflict of interest were Ngubane and Molefe.

Koko had been accused of failing to declare a possible conflict of interest relating to his stepdaughter Koketso Choma doing business with Eskom. This was via her stake in Impulse International, a multinational engineering and project management company. After she became a shareholder, the company bagged nine Eskom contracts totalling R380 million from a single contract awarded in 2014.

According to records, Choma became a director of Impulse in March 2016 and resigned less than six months later. A day after the recorded resignation, she became a beneficiary of Mokoni Trust, which has a 35% stake in Impulse.

During Koko’s hearing, it was put to him that he ought to have reasonably known that Choma transferred 25% of her direct shareholding in Impulse into Mokoni and that the trust was awarded an additional 10%, bringing its stake in Impulse to 35%.

A number of Impulse’s contracts with Eskom were pushed through under the guise of being emergency or sole sourcing contracts, thus bypassing regular tender processes. One of the key witnesses disputed this allegation.

According to findings, testimony confirmed that Koko’s alleged memorandum, which was addressed to Ngubane last February, and his prior declaration to Molefe could not be found in Eskom’s intranet, despite the parastatal’s policy requiring such a record.

The reasons put forward were that Ngubane was not an Eskom employee and therefore not in the Eskom intranet. No mention was made of Koko’s outgoing email record.

It was mentioned that it was up to both Ngubane and Molefe to ensure the declarations were entered in the required electronic forms in the system.

Eskom appointed law firm Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr to conduct the investigation. It in turn appointed Nkonki Forensic Services, whose assistant director testified at the hearing.

Business Leadership South Africa chief executive officer Bonang Mohale said the reappointments were similar to the alleged illegal re-appointment of Molefe as Eskom chief executive. Mohale lambasted Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown for demonstrating a poor grasp of corporate governance.

“It flies in the face of complying with the rule of law, holding executives finally accountable and efforts by business and labour to work with government in restoring confidence in our economy, which has suffered serial downgrades,” the organisation said in a statement.

Black Business Council secretary-general George Sebulela said the organisation still had to analyse the findings against Koko and Govender and might engage the Eskom board to get answers.

When contacted for comment, Koko referred all questions to Eskom. Impulse International director Pragasen Pather declined to comment. Efforts to contact Choma proved fruitless.

Molefe did not respond to text and voicemail messages.

According to the record, Ngubane was never contacted for verification of what happened prior to the hearing. He pleaded ignorance when asked of Koko’s declaration to him and why it was never entered into the parastatal’s records.

“I don’t know what you are talking about. I am not at Eskom any more,” he said.

Eskom deputy spokesperson Dikatso Mothae confirmed that Govender was not subjected to a hearing and that two of the six witnesses initially meant to take the stand against Koko declined to testify.

Asked to confirm details of the tenders awarded to Impulse since 2016, including amounts, Mothae opted not to divulge and said: “Eskom and Impulse International are in the process of negotiations in order to avoid litigation and the information you are requesting could be used in a litigation process.”

She also said the exact cost of the hearing was not yet known as the invoices had not been received.

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