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26/01/2018 06:05 SAST | Updated 26/01/2018 11:09 SAST

New Eskom CEO Grills Sean Maritz On Dodgy McKinsey U-Turn

"The new board will review the decision taken on January 16 to send the letter and the reasons why it was done."

Mike Hutchings / Reuters

Eskom's new board has confirmed that a letter forwarded to McKinsey earlier this month by Eskom's former board – which claimed that their R1-billion contract with the global consultancy firm was lawful after all – was signed off by the parastatal's former interim CEO, Sean Maritz.

Maritz was summoned in front of his successor, Phakamani Hadebe, on Thursday morning and asked to explain why the letter was sent.

The consultancy firm first hit the spotlight after it was revealed that they had allegedly subcontracted 30 percent of their business with Eskom to the Gupta-linked Trillian. The total contract amount was in the vicinity of R1.6-billion, and Trillian pocketed R600-million without doing any work.

After an investigation which found that the contract was unlawful, Eskom's former board last year wrote to McKinsey demanding the R1-billion that the consultancy had already received be repaid. McKinsey agreed, but have not made payment to date.

Eskom spokesperson Khulu Phasiwe confirmed that in a letter dated January 16, 2018, Maritz had written to McKinsey saying that after a review of the contract, the board had concluded that the contract was indeed lawful. However, Maritz still demanded that the money be repaid.

Maritz and most of the board serving at Eskom at the time have been replaced.

"The old board had written to both McKinsey and Trillian last year, saying the payments were unlawful. Last week (January 16), the same board wrote to McKinsey saying that the letter they wrote last year is to be revoked, because there was nothing unlawful about the payments made," Phasiwe said.

"A review was done by that board, and they found that there was nothing unlawful. The new board will make an announcement on the matter soon."

Phasiwe confirmed there was a meeting between Hadebe and Maritz.

"The new board will review the decision taken on January 16 to send the letter and the reasons why it was done," he said.

Attempts to contact McKinsey's South African offices were unsuccessful on Thursday.

The Democratic Alliance's (DA's) Natasha Mazzone said it seems members of the former Eskom board were "trying to cover up something a lot bigger".

"What they were trying to do is show what they did was above board. The criminal charges the DA laid against McKinsey must be investigated as a matter of urgency. McKinsey said in Parliament [it doesn't] want tainted money. Nobody [would] want to hand over that much money, unless there was something seriously wrong," she said.

"I advise the new board not to trust a single decision undertaken before their arrival. The matter must be investigated internally again."