Minister of Public Enterprises, Pravin Gordhan, has ridiculed former Eskom CEO Andre de Ruyter’s reasons for his poor performance as “pitiful”.
Gordhan made these comments to Parliament’s Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa) on Wednesday morning.
He took aim at De Ruyter’s comments that Gordhan and his department “played a very interventionist role in Eskom” and were “micromanaging Eskom”.
De Ruyter said Gordhan is “known for a style that can be characterised as being extremely involved in operational detail”.
The former Eskom CEO said there were many examples of Gordhan’s intervention in the utility’s day-to-day operations. The minister bypassed the former CEO, his COO, and Eskom’s head of generation.
“Whether that was to gain information or to verify information, I don’t know, but it made life as the responsible accounting officer quite difficult,” he said.
“Many different cooks in the kitchen do not always result in a good meal”, De Ruyter said.
Gordhan responded to De Ruyter’s comments, saying, “If that is the excuse in books or interviews for the lack of performance, then it is a pitiful excuse.”
The minister was adamant that there was no micromanaging from him or his department at Eskom.
“There was no interference with the work of the CEO or any senior managers”, according to Gordhan.
Gordhan also questioned why De Ruyter recorded conversations with Eskom employees and management, “Was he more interested in writing a book that would mask his legacy in terms of performance as far as Eskom is concerned?”
He said this is not the case of shooting the messenger with De Ruyter. “He is not a messenger. He was in charge of an institution.”
“If you are in charge, the buck stops with you”. Gordhan said De Ruyter should have shown a sense of responsibility and remorse for failing to manage Eskom.
De Ruyter should have said, “I am sorry, South Africa. I tried my best. I could not do better than what I did”. That was what was required, according to the minister.
The minister added that some of De Ruyter’s actions could be seen as narcissistic. However, he said he was not there to analyse De Ruyter’s psychology. “There are more important things to do,” he said.