Former Eskom CEO Andre de Ruyter’s new book, Truth to Power, gives a behind-the-scenes look at widespread corruption at the power utility.
In the book, which went on sale on Sunday, De Ruyter said he quickly realised something was wrong when he took over as Eskom CEO.
Watching the exit gate of Megawatt Park, he was astounded to see a number of Range Rovers, BMWs, Mercs and Porsches heading for the exit at 15:30 in the afternoons.
“Did we really have that many rich employees? And, if so, why were we paying top dollar for workers already packing up an hour or two after lunch?” he asked.
Eskom employees’ flaunting of wealth wasn’t limited to fancy cars.
Many junior Eskom employees clutched Louis Vuitton handbags, equivalent to a month’s salary, and decked out in branded Hermes dresses, Panerai watches and Christian Louboutin shoes.
It made him wonder where the money came from. “Considering the opulence displayed by employees of a state-owned enterprise, it was certainly suspicious,” he said.
“Either Eskom employees were living way beyond their means, or they had access to funds from other sources.”
“It didn’t take Sherlock Holmes to figure out what was afoot,” De Ruyter said.
De Ruyter said flaunting the wealth gained from ill-gotten gains was the way to avoid unnecessary risks.
“Putting money in your bank account could attract the scrutiny of Eskom’s internal audit department, the Financial Intelligence Centre or the South African Revenue Service (SARS),” he said.
“So, what do you do with R100 000 in hot, illicit cash? You go to the Louis Vuitton shop.”
Similarly, it turned out that several senior Eskom managers were also “gifted cattle farmers, registering farms in Limpopo in the names of cousins and other relatives”.
Doing anything in your own name or your spouse’s name would be picked up in a lifestyle audit.
“I was told of one less-than-honest Eskom manager who boasted that a lifestyle audit wouldn’t pick up the cattle delivered to your farm, as you could claim preternatural fecundity in your herd,” he said.
The deceitful habits formed during the state capture era under former President Jacob Zuma and the Guptas had clearly not yet been broken.
Zuma and his cohorts infiltrated the highest levels of these organisations by appointing pliable deployees to key management and board positions.
“Together with its state-owned sisters like Transnet and South African Airways, Eskom bled a veritable ocean of money into the coffers of the state capture brigade,” De Ruyter said.
Eskom was a ripe peach waiting to be plucked. “With a procurement bill north of R140 billion per annum and a capital expenditure budget exceeding R35 billion per annum, the opportunities for looting were everywhere.”