Ngubane says he wasn’t aware of Gupta influence at Eskom

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Former Eskom Board chairperson, Ben Ngubane, has told the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture he found it disturbing that there were outside forces dictating affairs at the power utility.

Ngubane admitted there were corporate governance issues at Eskom, but has denied knowing to what extent the Guptas influenced contracts deals in their favour. He concluded his evidence at the commission earlier on Tuesday.

“It is quite disturbing because what we read here should never have happened. I mean people actually dictating to us remove PMFA, the board must do this. However, I think it’s a bigger problem we have – the issue of governance. I don’t know how to frame it but I see it as a bigger problem the country faces. Why was there information leaking I mean there is information that the Guptas were appointing ministers. Why were we having all those sorts of things? The suggestion that there were people manipulating, I agree.”

Ngubane denies helping orchestrate Brian Molefe’s move to Eskom:

The former Eskom board chair also found it surprising that the Guptas and their associate Salim Essa knew Brian Molefe would be appointed as the new Eskom CEO a year before it happened.

Gupta associate Salim Essa had indicated that in 2014 during a meeting in Melrose Arch in Johannesburg, they had decided to appoint Molefe as the new CEO.

Seven months later, Molefe was seconded to Eskom after then CEO Tshediso Matona and other executives were suspended. Ngubane told the commission this was a random incident and that his board had no plans in place to appoint a new CEO.

“There was a saying when BEE came in that the same scoundrels were getting all the tenders and all the BEE partnerships, now in our society there is a limited amount of people with real skill and capabilities and so it can be easy to predict someone trajectory. What I’m trying to say you get to a situation where the same people circulate in different organisations.”

Commission hears Eskom-related evidence: 

Ngubane claimed then Public Enterprises Minister, Lynne Brown, suggested Molefe to act as GCEO. He also denied allegations that his board and the Transnet board discreetly negotiated the transfer of Anoj Singh and Molefe to Eskom in 2015.

“We had written to the Transnet board they had agreed, so we were just crossing the T’s and dotting the I’s. It wasn’t the original start of that request. Of cause being chairman it was in my office and I introduced the subject of the secondment of Mr Molefe not that I was initiating that process.”

Molefe was appointed as Eskom acting GCEO in April 2015 – two weeks after its chair Zola Tsotsi had resigned. Ngubane says they were not happy with the previous board’s performance, especially on its annual reports and financial statements for the utility.

Matona had also informed the Minister they were unable to pay salaries in 2015.