Trouble spills over at PetroSA

The top echelons at embattled state-owned oil company PetroSA are in disarray, and highly placed sources say that the board chairperson, Nhlanhla Gumede, has been meddling in the entity’s administration.

The acting chief executive officer, Kholly Zono, wrote to the board on Wednesday stating that he would like to vacate the chief executive position by September 30 to focus on the role of chief operating officer (COO), to which he had been appointed by the board in January.

The chief financial officer (CFO), Hlokammoni Motau, wrote to Zono on August 10 requesting an early termination of her contract. “I hereby give notice of my intention to terminate my contract before the agreed date of 30 September 2018 [and move it]to 31 August 2018. Kindly identify a suitable candidate to enable a smooth handover process,” Motau said.

Chief risk and compliance officer Kerry Larkin also resigned and has already left the national oil company.

A board member who did not want to be named said they are not happy about the resignations because they affect the stability of the already beleaguered entity.

“These two [Motau and Zono] are moving at a time that we need continuity and their only reason is because the chairperson has been getting involved in the admin of the entity and no one can work like that.”

The board member added that Gumede had aspirations of being the chief executive of PetroSAand has been spending an inordinate amount of time at the entity.

Another highly placed source confirmed the meddling, saying that, when there are appointments Zono should be a part of, Gumede excludes him.

Gumede refused to respond.

READ MORE: Minister halts R22bn PetroSA deal

PetroSA spokesperson Tumoetsile Mogamisi said Zono had not communicated any decision to resign from PetroSA but is simply moving into a position for which he was hired.

He said: “He was appointed to the COO position in January 2018 as part of stabilising theleadership of the company. Earlier this month the interim CFO, Motau, requested the board to allow her to leave the company at the end of August, two weeks before the end of her six-month contract.

“In respect of the appointments and resignations of executives, PetroSA only announces these once the board has taken a resolution.”

This instability is another setback for PetroSA, which has still not presented an acceptable turnaround strategy to the ministry of energy.

Last week the Mail &Guardian reported that Energy Minister Jeff Radebe rejected PetroSA’s budget and five-year corporate plan, which included plans fora R22-billion commitment to Nigerian oil fields.

In June, the Central Energy Fund, which oversees PetroSA, told Parliament that the entity was likely to run out of gas and funds by 2022. PetroSA has reported astronomical losses over the past few years,the biggest being inthe 2014-2015 financial year when it made a loss of R14.6-billion, the most money any state entity has ever lost.

PetroSAhas been embroiled in numerous scandals, including selling off the country’s strategic fuel reserves under the leadership of former energy minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson.

Zono was appointed chief operating officer in January and, according to Business Day,his total cost to company pay rose from R2.6-million in the 2017 financial year to R7.8-million in the year ending in March 2018.

Zono could not be reached for comment and Matau declined to comment.

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Athandiwe Saba
Athandiwe Saba

Athandiwe Saba is a multi award-winning journalist who is passionate about data, human interest issues, governance and everything that isn’t on social media. She is an author, an avid reader and trying to find the answer to the perfect balance between investigative journalism, online audiences and the decline in newspaper sales. It’s a rough world and a rewarding profession.

Sabelo Skiti

Sabelo Skiti is an investigative journalist.

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