Outgoing chairperson says board investigated allegations against Sicelo Xulu and found them to be without substance
Johannesburg – Chair of the soon to be replaced City Power board, Frank Chikane, said on Saturday that following the law should not be misconstrued as not dealing with corruption.
Speaking at a frank and open discussion about his tenure at City Power in Johannesburg, Chikane dealt with the allegations against the utility's suspended managing director Sicelo Xulu.
He also said that the state had failed City Power.
"The state has failed us because we send messages to the top but nothing happens."
He said the state needed to take City Power seriously and treat it "like a place that needs a fully-fledged Hawks unit, intelligence and prosecutors".
He said the board received information alleging that Xulu was corrupt, but when the board investigated, it found that the allegations were false.
When Chikane advised the city that he could not suspend the managing director without following due processes, the city said the board should go ahead and suspend him, so Chikane "decided to follow the law".
Xulu is on leave pending the investigation, said Chikane.
His message to the city was clear: "I hope that they have done their homework."
When asked what was next for him, he said, "I have done my job. I never leave a place in shambles. When I left, I left government in good shape. When things go wrong I know exactly what happened."
Lack of accountability
Chikane said he always tried to keep politics out of his job.
"I don’t want to politicise our board matter. I think that our matter is about the law. We followed the law. I did not discuss politics with the mayor."
He said he was finalising the hand-over report which he would be giving the city on Monday.
A new board is due to be elected on April 1.
Chikane said the city provided him with good board members.
"I had highly technical people who understood the business."
The City of Johannesburg said on Thursday that the board of City Power would be replaced.
Chikane said he was proud that City Power had produced black professionals "who know what they are talking about".
Some of the challenges the board faced since it arrived in 2012 included a culture of a lack of accountability.
"There was no cost for failing. No consequences for doing anything that was wrong and we had to change that. It was a steep curve to change that."
He said that during his tenure, the board managed to make the staff accountable.
"It was a revamping of the organisation."
Chikane said the board also found that staff were claiming for overtime when they did not even work overtime.
"That was the first spark of the tensions at City Power... and the demand for the MD to step down."
Another challenge was the failure to read meters.
"In the city we have 390 000 accounts. Johannesburg should be 800 000. Some are covered by Eskom and others by City Power."
The board managed to get staff to read meters once in three months.
"A war room was set up to deal with meters and it did not produce much results and we had a project manager on revenue collection services. It still did not produce as much, so we got [auditing firm] Ernst and Young to investigate the case and found that people breached or removed the meters."
He said the board found a syndicate was stealing electricity from the city and that by last year the graph had turned around and more meters were being read.
"We improved the meter reading rate from 67% in 2015 to almost 80% by June 2016 and 88% by January this year. The target we have given them is 98% of the known meters.
"The people that really rob the city are the privileged."
If the large power users do not pay, the city loses large amounts of money, unlike if it was someone living in Alexandra.