Valli's tender moments

ANC heavyweight Valli Moosa has spun through the revolving door, sharing in an Eskom outsourcing contract worth hundreds of millions of rands months after quitting as the parastatal’s chair.

The contract, worth an estimated R300-million a year, is for the outsourced management of Eskom facilities including its conference centre, training centres and the Megawatt Park head office.

Eskom awarded the tender last October to Drake & Scull, a subsidiary of Tsebo Outsourcing Group. Moosa’s Lereko Investments bought a 15% share in Tsebo in January last year.

Eskom issued the outsourcing tender in April last year while Moosa was head of the parastatal. He stepped down three months before the tender was awarded.

Moosa denied any conflict this week, saying he had no knowledge of the outsourcing process while at Eskom and played no part in any decisions or discussions concerning the tender.
The question remains whether goodwill from Moosa’s time as chair might have influenced the tender process.

No response had been received from Eskom at the time of going to press.

Asked whether he drew this potential conflict of interest to Eskom’s attention, Moosa said: “My interest in Lereko was declared to Eskom. It is not customary to include all the activities of a company one declares an interest in.

“The matter concerning the conference and catering services you refer to did not serve before me or the board and was not within my knowledge, therefore the question did not arise.”

The other short-listed contender was Mvelaserv, a company within Tokyo Sexwale’s Mvelaphanda empire.

A source close to the bidding process said Mvelaserv had believed it had a good chance of winning the contract, but could not say there was anything untoward about the final decision.

But the decision has caused unhappiness among Eskom staff facing either voluntary retrenchment or transfer to the winning bidder.

During the formal staff consultation process with Eskom about the outsourcing, employees were explicitly encouraged to consider bidding for part or all of the outsourced services themselves. This possibility was also emphasised in the tender briefing given to potential bidders.

Some of the roughly 200 to 400 affected staff banded together to establish a company that formed part of the Mvelaserv consortium, but their hopes of having a stake in the outsourced entity were dashed when the contract went to Drake & Scull.

The process has also assumed a racial tint, with one of the unions represented at Eskom, the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa), alleging earlier this month that many white employees of the affected division had been absorbed elsewhere in Eskom, while black employees were forced to transfer to Drake & Scull.

Numsa chief shop steward at Eskom Nathaniel Goete said in a statement: “We are gearing ourselves for adversarial and antagonistic engagement with Eskom management as we are mobilising protest campaigns in conjunction with Cosatu to vent our anger against outsourcing.”

Numsa has asked the Commission for Conciliation Mediation and Arbitration for the right to strike.

The controversy emerges in the wake of last week’s finding by the Public Protector that Moosa acted improperly in not recusing himself in 2007 from Eskom deliberations over the award of a huge power station tender to a company in which the ANC has an interest.

Stefaans Brümmer

Stefaans Brümmer

Stefaans is an old hand at investigations. A politics and journalism graduate, he cut his reporting teeth at the Cape Argus in the tumultuous early 1990s; then joined the Mail & Guardian as democracy dawned in April 1994. For the next 16 years (a late-1990s diversion into television and freelancing apart), the M&G was his journalistic home and launch pad for award-winning investigations focusing on the nexus between politics and money. Stefaans has co-authored exposés including Oilgate, the Selebi affair, Chancellor House and significant breaks in the arms deal scandal. Stefaans and Sam Sole co-founded amaBhungane in 2010. He divides his time between the demands of media bureaucracy (which he detests), coaching members of the amaBhungane team, and his first love, digging for dung.
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