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Pro-nuclear Koko gunning for Eskom top job?

Dec 22 2016 08:50
Matthew le Cordeur

Cape Town – Eskom’s head of generation and acting chief executive Matshela Koko has cleared a major hurdle if he wants to take over Brian Molefe’s old job permanently.

This follows Eskom’s technical victory in the Constitutional Court on Wednesday, in which the court dismissed an application by Westinghouse to review the award of a tender for the replacement of the six steam generators at the Koeberg Power Station.

READ: Eskom wins ConCourt nuclear battle

The tender had been set aside and ruled as “unlawful” and “unfair” in a scathing judgment by the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) on 8 December 2015.

In overturning the ruling, the ConCourt explained on Wednesday that “there was no suggestion in evidence or argument that the BTC (bid tender committee) was actuated by malice, irrationality, corruption or other improper motive".

Had the ruling gone the other way, Koko could have been implicated in tender fraud, according to an analysis by the Mail & Guardian.

Koko told Fin24 on Wednesday that the ruling confirms the efficacy of Eskom’s internal governance and procurement processes as aligned to all the statutory requirements of a state-owned entity such as Eskom.

“Deputy Chief Justice [Dikgang] Moseneke stated clearly that Eskom was truly meticulous and proper in its assessment of the bids,” he said in an emailed response.  

"Today’s win affirms Eskom’s internal checks and balances are appropriate to meet the global best practice in assessing bids of this nature,” Koko said on Wednesday.

He said however that the court case had impacted the roll-out of the new reactors for the ageing nuclear power station.

“While Eskom is planning for installation in 2018, it would be naïve to think that a court case of this magnitude did not have an impact on our project teams,” he said. “We will be regrouping to consider the extent of such an impact with a futuristic approach to get the implementation back on track.” 

In response to the court victory, Areva said in a statement that it is "continuing the works linked to the execution of the 2014 contract for the supply and the installation of steam generators at the Koeberg power plant". It renewed "its commitment to accompany Eskom in supplying a reliable, competitive and safe electricity".

Bid to procure nuclear

This has been a good week for Koko, who tipped the nation off on Twitter on Tuesday that the nuclear request for information (RFI) had been published.

This is the start of Eskom and Necsa’s efforts to procure 9.6 GW of new nuclear power stations, and will be followed by the request for proposals in 2017.  

“It must be emphasised that the RFI is a globally accepted standard through which organisations assess the market requirements and expectations to enable prudent decision making,” Koko told Fin24.

“We are positive that nuclear remains the most viable and reliable base-load option for the further development of South Africa’s energy mix to ensure security of electricity supply while adhering to our various national and international policy objectives.”

READ: ANALYSIS: Nuclear faces bumpy road as Koko dreams of 2025

The ConCourt win isn’t the only hurdle Koko, who has been at Eskom for 21 years, needed to clear. While the head of generation is traditionally the next-in-line for the chief executive post, the Eskom board has veered away from this in recent time. Brian Molefe came from Transnet (as well as PIC and Treasury), while his predecessor Tshediso Matona was a former director-general of the Department of Trade and Industry.

Therefore, the board could look for further fresh leadership at the ailing power utility.

This could especially be necessary due to the State of Capture report, which focuses on coal and Eskom’s dealing with Gupta-owned Tegeta.

READ: Tears, Tegeta and nuclear dominate Eskom briefing

“Koko, as the head of generation, holds executive responsibility for coal procurement,” the Mail & Guardian explained. “His signature on a document approving a prepayment of R600 000 to Gupta-owned Tegeta, which enabled it to buy Optimum Coal, clearly implicates him in the matter.”

“In June this year, before the State of Capture investigation, Carte Blanche interviewed Koko and asked him about the prepayment. At first he denied it but, when presented with his signature on the document, he quickly back-pedalled, claiming he had made a mistake.”

Koko had told Fin24 previously that he would have preferred not getting the top job because he saw Molefe as the right man for the job.

That was however before Molefe resigned.

Koko tweeted the following thanks to his board after winning the ConCourt case ...

Read Fin24's top stories trending on Twitter:

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eskom  |  brian molefe  |  matshela koko

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