South Africa’s Special Investigating Unit (SIU) should focus on investigating corruption at Eskom rather than going after former Eskom CEO Andre de Ruyter for bringing criminal activities at the utility to light.
This is the view of Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA) CEO Wayne Duvenage, who told the SABC that De Ruyter is now a scapegoat used to deflect attention from those engaging in criminal activity at Eskom.
De Ruyter is under investigation by the SIU for alleged maladministration during his tenure at the power utility.
In 2021, during his tenure as Eskom CEO, De Ruyter initiated a private investigation into corruption at Eskom. It was intended to complement law enforcement investigations at the utility.
From this investigation, forensic investigation organisation George Fivaz Forensic and Risk (GFFR) compiled a damning report on criminal activity at Eskom, implicating top government officials.
SIU head Andy Mothibi told Parliament’s Standing Committee on Public Accounts that the SIU has not ruled out taking legal action against De Ruyter for facilitating this investigation.
The investigation was “facilitated” by De Ruyter, Mothibi said, which he did not have the authority to do.
Despite De Ruyter’s good intentions, the SIU believes that “how he went about it was not consistent with his office, and without informing the board, the SIU, DPCI, SAPS and executive authority, this is maladministration”.
“The former CEO did not have authority to investigate the affairs of Eskom,” he said. “Consideration should be given to holding the former CEO to account.”
“Should the nature of the action warrant it, we would formally reach out to wherever he is so that action can be taken.”
Duvenage disagreed with the accusation from the SIU that De Ruyter may be guilty of misconduct and maladministration.
“Quite frankly, it is his fiduciary duty as the accounting officer, and he has the right to introduce investigations that he thinks need to take place,” Duvenage said.
If De Ruyter did not launch the private investigation, he could be liable for not exercising his oversight.
Duvenage added that government departments regularly use private firms to conduct investigations at state institutions without board approval.
“We have seen multi-million rand investigations ordered by executives in many government departments without board authority,” he said.
With the high levels of political interference at Eskom, De Ruyter could reasonably argue that involving the board might have disrupted the investigation.
“It would be interesting to see if they ever did bring these charges against De Ruyter. I think they would get egg on their faces if they went to court,” Duvenage said.
“What really worries us here is that they are trying to shoot the messenger. Nobody is actually stepping back and saying, ‘Hold on, here is an individual trying to get to the bottom of corruption at Eskom, and we want to castigate him instead of getting valuable information from him’.”
“He is the scapegoat. He is the individual they are going to blame and put the spotlight on to take the heat off where the heat should be focussed,” Duvenage said.
“To really get to the bottom of the issues and inform the public is the furthest thing from their minds. It is quite a farce.”