Business Leadership South Africa defends R18m support for Eskom corruption probe
The business organisation said the corruption investigation into Eskom by George Fivaz Forensic and Risk has ‘led to some successes’, resulting in 43 people being arrested for various crimes, disruption to coal syndicates and the recovery of ‘millions of rands’ from dodgy contracts.
Business Leadership South Africa (BLSA) has doubled down on defending its decision to mobilise funding for an initiative that reportedly probed high-level corruption at Eskom, saying this was part of its “normal” function of helping to “build a capable state”.
Criticism has been growing around BLSA’s decision to secure funding worth R18-million for a “risk assessment” at Eskom that was aimed at supporting the work of law enforcement authorities.
At the end of 2021, former Eskom CEO André de Ruyter approached BLSA CEO Busi Mavuso with a request for funding for a “risk assessment” or corruption investigation that would be led by George Fivaz Forensic and Risk (GFFR), a firm owned by former police commissioner George Fivaz. At the time of GFFR’s appointment, Mavuso was also an Eskom board member.
It was subsequently reported by investigative journalist Jacques Pauw on News24 that former apartheid operative Tony Oosthuizen was involved in GFFR’s “risk assessment” at Eskom.
Read the News24 article here: ESKOM DIRTY DOSSIER | Revealed: Apartheid spook behind De Ruyter’s R50m off-the-books Project Ostrich | News24
It was also claimed by Pauw that the reports produced by Oosthuizen contained untested information about coal syndicates at Eskom that were devoid of useful information and were riddled with conspiracy theories.
BLSA’s funding of the “risk assessment” at Eskom has raised concerns that a business organisation whose members include private sector companies provided funding to a state-owned entity to unearth corruption at its operations.
There are also concerns that a potential conflict of interest may have arisen when Mavuso, who at the time had the dual role of Eskom board member and BLSA CEO, helped to mobilise funding for the “risk assessment” by GFFR.
During a press briefing on Thursday, Mavuso said the decision to provide funding to Eskom was not “single-handedly approved” by her, but was also endorsed by BLSA’s board, chaired by Nonkululeko Nyembezi.
It’s not clear whether all board members agreed on the decision to provide funding for the Eskom investigation. Mavuso only said there was “wide board support” for the decision.
There are also concerns that this initiative was a clandestine one – going undeclared through Eskom’s official procurement channels since GFFR was not among Eskom’s approved service providers.
Mavuso defended BLSA’s decision, saying she believes the organisation did the right thing and that valuable information was gathered from GFFR’s “risk assessment.”
Mavuso was joined at the press briefing by Cas Coovadia, CEO of Business Unity SA, which has a membership affiliation with BLSA.
Mavuso said the work by GFFR has “led to some successes” resulting in 43 people being arrested for various crimes related to Eskom’s affairs, disruption to coal syndicates, and the recovery of “millions of rands” from sullied contracts, as highlighted by President Cyril Ramaphosa during his State of the Nation speech in February. She also said BLSA providing financial support to corruption-busting initiatives was part of the business organisation’s “normal activities”.
“Our scope is to provide funding, technical and other forms of support to reduce the impact of corruption on business in SA and society and achieve socioeconomic growth. We have a business against crime initiative,” said Mavuso.
Mavuso and Coovadia said they stood behind GFFR’s work, which would kickstart the process of law enforcement authorities further investigating the corruption at Eskom, with a view to prosecuting the wrongdoers.
‘Shocked and dismayed’
Mavuso said that BLSA was “shocked and dismayed” to learn that an individual (referring to Oosthuizen without naming him) with a “tainted history” had been involved in GFFR’s work, and that BLSA did not support the appointment of such people.
“If we had known about the individual, we would not have allowed the person to participate in the risk assessment work,” she said.
Mavuso said BLSA had no say in the appointment of GFFR or the individuals involved in the firm. Mavuso added that De Ruyter had selected GFFR for the job.
However, “to simply dismiss the detailed intelligence-gathering on the basis that one cog in the investigative process has a racist and reactionary history is neither logical nor fair,” she added.
About the veracity of the information uncovered by GFFR’s work and the report it compiled, Coovadia said: “From what we have seen, the report does not have any of the sensationalist stuff that is in the public domain. From what we have seen, there have been a lot of positive outcomes from this report.
“It was always our understanding that the work we were asked to fund would – on the basis of information the CEO of Eskom had about corruption and sabotage – try to uncover that and connect the dots and then make it available to the authorities to decide whether they want to act on it… And we believe that has happened to a certain extent.” DM/BM