Lynne Brown must adopt transparent approach to Eskom board appointment – Save SA

Organisation says previous boards have proven to be unmitigated disasters

Brown urged to adopt new transparent approach to Eskom board appointment

5 October 2017

The Save South Africa campaign urges Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown to adopt a new approach to the appointment of the next Eskom board next month, based on transparency and public scrutiny.

Previous Eskom boards have been an unmitigated disaster. They have either facilitated or turned a blind eye to the rampant corruption and mismanagement that has become the hallmark of the country’s national energy supplier, and are largely to blame for the collapse of public confidence.

In her parliamentary budget speech yesterday, Minister Brown committed herself to “processes to strengthen (government’s) hand in exercising its oversight responsibilities at state-owned companies”.

We believe the appointment of the next Eskom board – due in a month’s time – is a perfect opportunity to show that she means business.

One of the major reasons for the collapse of good governance at Eskom and the pillaging by the likes of former CFO Anoj Singh and former acting chief executive Matshela Koko is a lack of proper oversight and governance by the Eskom board. Some board members – such as Ben Ngubane – have themselves allegedly been complicit in illicit conduct at Eskom, and have tried to protect executives such as Singh, Koko and Brian Molefe from being held accountable.

As Brown herself says, “the biggest remaining challenge (at Eskom) is the lack of adherence to proper governance”.

To put things right, we propose she follow a process similar to the one used for the SABC – in other words, that there is full scrutiny of potential candidates, they are interviewed by a Parliamentary portfolio committee, and their names are made public before they are formally approved.

We believe transparency and scrutiny – by parliamentarians, the media and the public at large – are the best way to ensure the next Eskom board is not stacked with duds, looters or Gupta deployees.

This process should be aimed at ensuring the next board is made up of people with integrity, who respect the Constitution, are not “captured” or conflicted, and are totally committed to good governance.

Save South Africa believes this option will result in a far better outcome than the Minister’s current approach, which is to appoint the board at an Eskom special general meeting in November.

Minister Brown’s portfolio is a mess, with Eskom undoubtedly being the worst governed and worst managed of the state-owned companies under her leadership. She can break the mould, stop the looting, end the reputational damage and restore confidence in Eskom by ensuring that it has the best possible board, made up of the best possible candidates, with full public participation.

This could mark the beginning of a new, corruption-free Eskom – which, among other things, would put an end the theft and waste of public money, and hopefully result in cheaper power for South African consumers and massive reductions in the cost of building power stations.

Issued by Save South Africa, 5 October 2017