Eskom again moves to suspend whistleblower Suzanne Daniels
Four days after a CCMA ruling that stated Eskom must reinstate whistleblower and suspended head of Legal Suzanne Daniels the power utility has levelled new charges against her.
On March 8 the CCMA ruled that Eskom was guilty of unfair labour practice in its two attempts to suspend Daniels in October and December last year.
The CCMA awarded Daniels five months' remuneration as compensation and ordered that she be allowed to return to work on Monday March 19.
Daniels declined to comment when contacted on Friday‚ referring queries to Eskom‚ which did not immediately respond. The publication was told a response will be forthcoming. This story will be updated to reflect that.
The publication has learned that on March 12‚ Eskom through attorneys Bowmans Gilfillian communicated in an 11-page letter its intention to bring Daniels before a disciplinary hearing on three new charges.
Daniels has now been accused of distributing confidential Eskom documents to the email address “firstname.lastname@example.org”‚ the infamous “Business Man” account revealed in the Gupta emails to have been used by the director general of Public Enterprises‚ Richard Seleke.
Eskom in its letter to Daniels alleges that “based on information accessed from the server emails of Matshela Koko and information in the public domain the email address … is likely to be the email of Salim Essa‚ an associate of the Gupta family”.
Daniels is further accused of breaching her fiduciary responsibility for her “support” of a final settlement of the Risk Based Contract entered into on January 9 between Eskom and consultancy firm McKinsey.
Eskom alleges Daniels should have taken steps to avoid the payment of R1.6-billion to McKinsey and its Gupta-linked supplier development partner Trillian by ensuring legal advice on the payments reached the board‚ in her capacity as group company secretary.
The third charge alleges Daniels “committed financial misconduct under the PFMA and/or exposed Eskom to significant financial and reputational risk and harm in relation to various transactions” with Gupta-owned Optimum coal mine and Tegeta for coal prepayments and “various other transactions” between Eskom and Tegeta as part of the contract.
Eskom accuses Daniels of failing to advise parliament of “that you had played a direct role in assisting in the execution … in a role akin to a legal advisor” in terms of the Tegeta and Optimum transactions.
Daniels meanwhile has hit back in her representations providing reasons why she should not be suspended‚ which the publication has seen‚ accusing Eskom of running a campaign of “victimisation and harassment” which she believes stems from her disclosures as a whistleblower.
She denied any wrongdoing in relation to the new charges.
“I have now been on suspension for close to six months. Notably‚ four successive acting group chief executives have initiated disciplinary proceedings against me. In the circumstances‚ I consider a new notice of suspension on the basis of additional charges to be equally unfair and amounting to a campaign of victimisation and harassment being perpetrated against me by Eskom as my employer‚” her representations read.
She argues that she was appointed to investigate wrongdoing in the McKinsey and Trillian matter on behalf of Eskom together with Bowman and that she does not have access to documents to formulate her responses fully.
“It is unreasonable to expect me to remember‚ without access to my email history‚ the details of emails sent almost two years ago. It is nevertheless important to record that the charge is essentially premised on the assertion that the e-mail address referred to is articulated as ‘likely to be the email of Salim Essa’ without substantiation.”
She denies the other charges‚ saying her involvement was merely doing her job.
“The charge (in relation to McKinsey) is clearly aimed at persecuting me for providing advice as was the terms of my employment and duties‚ in circumstances where Eskom sought to salvage its reputation‚ where millions of rands had already been dispensed by the main role players and their conduct was not dealt with any haste whatsoever by Eskom.”
She added that she would present complete defence to all the charges at the disciplinary hearing.