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The Public Protector's Probe Into SOEs Is Only Preliminary, But It's A Start

Busisiwe Mkhwebane will investigate corporate capture allegations at state-owned enterprises such as

15/06/2017 13:17 SAST | Updated 15/06/2017 13:34 SAST
Mike Hutchings / Reuters
Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane listens during a briefing at Parliament in Cape Town, South Africa October 19, 2016.

Public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane has finally announced that she will start probing new allegations surrounding the capture of state-owned enterprises -- it may only be a preliminary investigation for now, but it is a step in the right direction.

What a preliminary investigation essentially means is that Mkhwebane will analyze the allegations currently in the public sphere and determine whether they merit a full-scale inquiry.

This is a 180 turn-around from her sentiments earlier this month, when her former spokesman Oupa Segalwe said the public protector is permitted by law only to investigate a matter upon receipt of a written complaint or of her own initiative.

And since there was no official complaint to her, she opted not to take it on her own initiative because of her office's big caseload and case backlog.

It now seems that someone has lodged a written complaint asking her to investigate the allegations sourced from the Gupta email leaks.

In her statement on Wednesday, Mkhwebane said she "received a complaint" regarding the Gupta emails but most of the claims already form part of her predecessor's State of Capture report.

It seems then that the public protector is diverting her attention to the parastatals.

Her office will look into allegations involving "improper and dishonest" acts in terms of public funds and "improper and unlawful enrichment" by officials in Eskom, Prasa and Transnet.

This is what she will be focusing on:

Prasa

  • Allegations regarding former Prasa board chairman Sifiso Buthelezi's failure to disclose and manage a conflict of interest arising from his business interests in 'Makana', which is a company that allegedly provided advisory services to Prasa on the Rolling Stock Programme.

Transnet

  • Allegations regarding kickback agreements totaling R5.3 billion through the procurement of locomotives at the parastatal.
  • The role of then Minister of Public Enterprises Malusi Gigaba in the appointment of Iqbal Sharma and Brian Molefe to Transnet's management.
  • Allegations of current minister Lynne Brown's failure to exercise the required executive oversight over Transnet, its board and its management.

Eskom

  • The re-appointment of Brian Molefe as Eskom CEO.
  • Allegations that acting CEO Matshela Koko channeled contracts to a company partly owned by his stepdaughter.
  • Allegations that Koko leaked a legal opinion to the Guptas.
  • Brown's role in the re-appointment of Molefe and her failure to exercise the required executive oversight over Eskom, its board and management.
  • Allegations by former Minister of Mineral Resources, Ngoako Ramatlhodi, that Molefe and former Eskom Board Chairperson, Ben Ngubane, pressurised him to help the Guptas take over Glencore's coal mine in 2016;