New CEO faces off with Joburg power utility
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Johannesburg - New City Power CEO Mongezi Ntsokolo has been in the job for five months, and there's already uncertainty around his position.
Ntsokolo was appointed to the position to run City Power’s R68.1-billion budget from the beginning of April this year.
City Power spokesperson Isaac Mangena on Saturday said the board had asked Ntsokolo to take special leave for two weeks.
“The decision comes after the board meeting where media queries about his issues at his previous employer – the alleged intention by his previous employer to suspend him and subsequent separation package – were discussed.
“The board felt that there may not have been proper declaration from him and requested Group Forensic Investigation Services to investigate the allegations, including issues of declarations to City Power board.”
Mangena added that the board believes that the independent forensic investigation will inform them to make a proper decision on Ntsokolo’s future with City Power.
However, on Saturday Ntsokolo denied his suspension but said, on Friday, the board requested him to take special leave, which he refused.
“The board met to hear my side of the story, and after that, they wrote a letter requesting me to take special leave. No suspension, but special leave. After receiving the letter, I looked at my employment contract, and I decided that I would not take special leave.
"According to my contract, there is nothing like special leave. So, I have responded to the board that I am not taking special leave because they did not give the reasons why I must take special leave. They simply said they got information and that they want to verify that information, and I don't know what information they are verifying,” he said.
In a letter sent to board chairperson Lindiwe Maseko, City of Joburg mayor Jolidee Matongo, and MMC for Environment and Infrastructure Services, Mpho Moerane, Ntsokolo said the process was hugely unfair and unprocedural and that it would damage his professional reputation. He also asked the board to be transparent and specify what information they are looking to verify.
“So that I know the exact scope of this investigation and that it does not end up being an unending witch hunt. This position is supported by clause 17 of my contract of employment. I also request to know why I must take special leave and be absent from the office,” reads the letter.
Ntsokolo was retrenched from Eskom in December 2018. A forensic investigation is said to have uncovered how he failed to declare his business interests in two companies that had multi-million rand contracts with the power utility.
But Ntsokolo's version is different from this assertion. "My tenure, and those of other executives, ended with retrenchment as the utility sought to save costs. The only regret in the professional relationship was the inconclusive investigative processes of accusations of maladministration and conflict of interest against myself.
“The lack of substance and truth to the allegations has led to neither organisational nor criminal charges proffered against me to date. The allegations and investigation had no material impact on my departure through the retrenchment door."
The Sunday Independent understands that City Power will officially ask Eskom to share with them all the information they have on Ntsokolo, including the forensic report which reportedly implicates him.
According to a former Eskom executive who refused to be named as he no longer works for the power utility, the “report isn’t a final nail in the coffin but would open a serious can of worms for Mongezi, which might see him facing jail time. Eskom, initially, didn’t want to use it against him as a token for his 28 years unbroken service with the power utility, but decided to retrench him instead of taking him to jail”.
A letter of intent to suspend Ntsokolo on December 20, 2018, signed by former Eskom group chief executive Phakamile Hadebe makes serious allegations against him. Ntsokolo had also signed, acknowledging receiving the letter.
The letter states that Ntsokolo was “implicated in serious acts of misconduct” among other things, his conduct and role as a former non-executive director of an independent power producer that was doing business with Eskom, his failure to disclose a personal relationship with a sole owner of a company that was also doing business with Eskom, Rotek Industry, while he was the chairperson.
The letter also accused Ntsokolo of failing to declare his business interests in two separate companies that were also doing business with Eskom.
Ntsokolo joined Fever Tree Consulting as a consultant shortly after his retrenchment from Eskom.
Fever tree is owned by former City Power managing director Sicelo Xulu, who was forced to resign in 2017 after a R2-billion scandal.
Fever Tree was awarded a R259-million consultancy contract by City Power in September last year.
Mangena said, at the time of awarding the contract to Fever Tree and other consultants, submitted documents did not indicate that Xulu was the owner.
“At the time of appointment, we were aware that Mr Ntsokolo was a consultant for Fever Tree, and he resigned. Fever Tree is on a panel of consultants for CityPower,” he said.
Sunday Independent confirmed that Fever Tree has a 12 months restraint of trade against Ntsokolo, which he never declared when he was employed at City Power.
But Ntsokolo's version paints a different picture: "Twenty-two (22) months after Eskom, my professional journey led to a consulting contract with Fever Tree Consulting. City Power was and is one of the company’s clients with a mandate to provide an array of services. Upon my appointment as CEO of City Power, I resigned from my professional engagement with the company. The company elected not to enforce any restraint of trade as my appointment did not violate any stipulated restraint provisions."
Ntsokolo yesterday raised questions about why these allegations are made against him. "The resurrection of unsubstantiated allegations against me, and in my previous employment, seek to suggest continuity of some immoral conduct on my part.
“Whilst none of these allegations directly are linked to my nascent tenure at City Power, they distract on the necessary momentum to fulfil my obligations," he said.