Chaos reigns at Eskom virtual meeting

By Antony Sguazzin for Bloomberg

With South Africa’s biggest state utility in crisis, one of parliament’s most important financial oversight committees called an urgent online meeting with the company.

Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd. non-executive board members failed to log on, sending a text message to say they were tied up, and parliamentary staff forgot to invite Pravin Gordhan, the public enterprises minister, who oversees the utility.

The meeting was convened, to among other things, discuss two legal reports — one of which dealt with the conduct of Chief Operating Officer Jan Oberholzer, and the other with a multi-billion rand fuel oil supply contract. Oberholzer, Eskom Chief Executive Officer Andre de Ruyter and several other executives did attend.

“You had chaos from the board side, which made it a farce,” said Alf Lees, a member of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts for the main opposition Democratic Alliance. “You couldn’t address the issues, particularly the issue of the COO.”

The need for urgency is self evident. Eskom is mired in corruption allegations, has debt of about 450 billion rand ($26.8 billion) and is struggling to supply the country with sufficient power.

The committee adjourned and will try to meet again next week to discuss Eskom.

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