Eskom probe clears Chief Operating Officer Jan Oberholzer

An investigation into Eskom’s Chief Operating Officer Jan Oberholzer has found no evidence of wrongdoing, the power utility said on Wednesday. 

The probe commenced on March 20 this year, following what Eskom’s board described as a series of allegations of “corruption, dishonesty, conflict of interest and abuse of power” against Oberholzer in the media and by certain civil society organisations.

Eskom appointed an independent legal expert to investigate the allegations after Oberholzer had been accused of victimising a subordinate who made a submission to Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture about wrongdoing at the utility, Fin24 previously reported. 

Allegations against Oberholzer were submitted by the civil organisation Corruption Watch and the South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) in letters to Eskom.

Eskom said in a statement on Wednesday that the probe had found “no basis” to the allegations. 

“On all the other allegations against Mr Oberholzer that were put before the senior counsel, the Board is satisfied that these have been fully and adequately ventilated and investigated, and that there is no cause for any action against Mr Oberholzer.”

The investigation looked into, among other things, whether there was any undisclosed conflict of interest by Oberholzer relating to construction company Stefanutti Stocks or any other entity which could have led to breaches in Eskom policy. It also examined whether, since Oberholzer returned to Eskom in 2018, he had breached his fiduciary duties or any Eskom policies, and whether there was any corruption or whether he had derived any personal benefit from a 2007 Black and Veatch contract or his subsequent involvement with the contract.

US consulting engineers Black & Veatch were contracted to assist at Kusile, with the cost reaching some R12 billion by 2017

The probe into Oberholzer also looked into the transfer of the employee who had first laid the complaint against him from a management position in the Capital Division to the Human Resources department. 

“The senior counsel conducted his investigation by interviewing witnesses and reviewing the information and documentary evidence provided by the witnesses, including the complainant and other Eskom officials,” Eskom said. 

“The senior counsel has found no basis to the allegations of dishonesty, corruption, conflict of interest and abuse of power levelled against the COO,” the power utility added.

It said Oberholzer had been cleared with regard to the allegations of a conflict of interest regarding Stefanutti Stocks, and that proper disclosure had been made of the COO’s shareholding. Investigating the Black and Veatch contract, “no fault or other improper conduct” on Oberholzer’s part could be found, Eskom said. 

With reference to the transfer of the alleged whistle-blower, the investigation could “find no wrongdoing in the process followed by Mr Oberholzer in this regard”. 

While the investigation found that the relationship between Oberholzer and the employee who made allegations of victimisation had been “characterised by tension”, the senior counsel did not find evidence of victimisation, Eskom said. 

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