BIL­LION RAND BABE

Eskom lav­ishes deals on boss’s 26-year-old step­daugh­ter

Sunday Times - - FRONT PAGE - MZILIKAZI wa AFRIKA

THE step­daugh­ter of Eskom boss Mat­shela Koko raked in con­tracts worth about a R1-bil­lion for her com­pany from the state util­ity.

Koketso Choma, 26, who grad­u­ated just three years ago, was ap­pointed a di­rec­tor at Im­pulse In­ter­na­tional last April.

Over the next 11 months, the com­pany was awarded eight lu­cra­tive con­tracts from a divi­sion of Eskom that Koko headed up un­til he was ap­pointed act­ing CEO in De­cem­ber.

This week Koko con­tra­dicted him­self, first telling Sun­day Times he had only found out about his step­daugh­ter’s in­volve­ment in Im­pulse four weeks ago. He later said in an e-mail that he had known about it since Au­gust.

As group ex­ec­u­tive for gen­er­a­tion, Koko had di­rect in­flu­ence on sup­ply chain man­age­ment at Eskom, a divi­sion that re­ported to him.

In to­tal, Im­pulse In­ter­na­tional — which de­scribes it­self on its web­site as “a multi­na­tional engi­neer­ing and project man­age­ment, plan­ning and cost man­age­ment con­sul­tancy and tech­ni­cal ser­vice provider” — has been awarded close to R1.8-bil­lion in ten­ders from Eskom since 2014. Of those deals, con­tracts of R1-bil­lion were awarded while Choma was a di­rec­tor at the com­pany, a po­si­tion she has since re­signed from.

But Koko, who was named in the public pro­tec­tor’s state cap­ture re­port as hav­ing au­tho­rised a pay­ment of al­most R600-mil­lion to the Gupta-owned Tegeta — be­lieved to have been used to buy Op­ti­mum Coal — is claim­ing ig­no­rance.

He said this week that he had only dis­cov­ered last month that Choma, who he lives with in Bryanston, Johannesburg, was a share­holder at Im­pulse In­ter­na­tional. Koko has been mar­ried to Koketso’s mother, Mosima, since 2009.

“She is my step­daugh­ter from my wife’s pre­vi­ous re­la­tion­ship and she lives with us, but I wasn’t aware that she was a di­rec­tor of this com­pany un­til four weeks ago and I asked her to re­sign with im­me­di­ate ef­fect,” he told the Sun­day Times.

Among the deals awarded to the com­pany while Choma was a di­rec­tor was a R79-mil­lion con­tract for con­struc­tion su­per­vi­sion at Kusile power plant, which was ex­tended by 10 months in a sub­se­quent R198-mil­lion deal, as well as a R300-mil­lion sub­con­tract for trunk ca­bling for Unit 2 at Kusile power sta­tion from the main con­trac­tor, ABB, last Oc­to­ber.

Koko, who has worked for Eskom for 21 years, is seen to be ahead in the race to re­place Brian Molefe, who re­signed in Novem­ber af­ter be­ing im­pli­cated by the public pro­tec­tor in al­leged im­proper deal­ings with the Gupta fam­ily.

At the time, Public En­ter­prises Min­is­ter Lynne Brown said Koko had a wealth of ex­pe­ri­ence and un­der­stood the chal­lenges faced by the state util­ity.

Brown told the Sun­day Times yes­ter­day that Koko had phoned her ear­lier in the day to alert her about the ar­ti­cle. “The board must deal with the mat­ter and re­port back to me,” she said. “If there is any proof of wrong­do­ing, Koko will face a dis­ci­plinary process.”

A source told the Sun­day Times this week that a whistle­blower had tipped off a board mem­ber that Koko was chan­nelling deals to his step­daugh­ter’s com­pany and con­fronted him with the ev­i­dence. “He then forced her to re­sign as a dam­age-con­trol ex­er­cise,” the source said. Koko de­nied th­ese al­le­ga­tions. Another source said Choma “is fresh from school for such a high­pro­file job” af­ter grad­u­at­ing in 2013.

Sources claimed Koko bul­lied some of Eskom’s main con­trac­tors to “sub­con­tract Im­pulse In­ter­na­tional”.

But Koko is adamant that Im­pulse In­ter­na­tional deals did not go through him at Eskom and de­nied bul­ly­ing any con­trac­tor to work with the com­pany.

“I didn’t know about th­ese deals as they didn’t go through me,” he said, claim­ing his step­daugh­ter was a busi­ness­woman in her own right.

She lives with us, but I wasn’t aware that she was a di­rec­tor of this com­pany un­til four weeks ago

“She is a qual­i­fied char­tered ac­coun­tant and does her own things,” he said.

In a later e-mail to the Sun­day Times, Koko said there was no le­gal obli­ga­tion for him to de­clare his con­flict of in­ter­est af­ter Choma re­signed from Im­pulse In­ter­na­tional.

How­ever, he said he later be­came aware that she “is now a ben­e­fi­ciary and trus­tee of Mokoni Trust, which has an in­ter­est in Im­pulse In­ter­na­tional”. He said he had asked Choma to re­sign as a trus­tee be­fore declar­ing her po­si­tion to Eskom.

Choma ac­knowl­edged on Fri­day that she had been a nonex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor at Im­pulse In­ter­na­tional be­tween April and Oc­to­ber last year.

“I de­cided to re­sign when my step­dad be­came aware of my re­la­tion­ship with Im­pulse and ad­vised me to re­sign as a di­rec­tor as it might be per­ceived as a con­flict of in­ter­est de­spite all the safe­guards that have been put in place.

“I was ap­pointed as a de­vel­op­ment can­di­date to gain as much ex­pe­ri­ence as I could from the com­pany, with the ob­jec­tive that one day I will use the ex­pe­ri­ence to as­sist with run­ning my own com­pany. I am not re­liant on my step­dad for my liveli­hood and do not re­ally en­gage him on my busi­ness deal­ings,” she said.

Im­pulse In­ter­na­tional CEO Pra­gasen Pather said this week that Choma had been one of three di­rec­tors in his com­pany when it was “awarded smaller con­tracts by Eskom”. He added: “We did iden­tify that there was a con­flict of in­ter­est as we were get­ting con­tracts from Eskom where Koketso’s step­fa­ther is a boss and we had to let her go.”

Pather said he had met Koko sev­eral times at busi­ness con­fer­ences but de­nied they were close.

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