ESKOM this week terminated the contract of special services company Swartberg following two Business Times articles indicating questionable methods might have been deployed to gather information on Medupi stakeholders.
Several documents sent to Business Times indicated that Swartberg gathered intelligence for Eskom by infiltrating communities and collating personal information on people in green lobby groups, politics and labour movements.
Swartberg MD Lukas Swart and Medupi general manager Roman Crookes signed a 24-page contract for the period June 27 2011 to June 28 2013, on June 24 2011.
Eskom said that as soon as it was internally confirmed that Swartberg was indeed appointed at Medupi, and that the scope included the gathering of intelligence, Eskom CEO Brian Dames issued an immediate instruction to terminate such intelligence services.
“This behaviour is unacceptable and not in line with our values as a company. Our people need to build trust with all our stakeholders. Eskom and its communities need to live together for generations, so we need to be able to trust each other,” he said.
Nevertheless, a source said Swartberg employees had not yet vacated a house paid for by Eskom in Vleilloerie Avenue in Lephalale and were still actively contacting personnel at Medupi.
As news about the Swartberg operations broke in the Lephalale area, Mr Swart claimed innocence in local newspapers, while stakeholders questioned Eskom and discussions broke out on different platforms such as on a Facebook group dubbed “Ellisras Saampraat”.
Asked to comment on Eskom’s termination of the Swartberg contract, Mr Swart said he would not comment and said he had taken the case up with the Press Ombudsman.
Eskom spokesman Hilary Joffe said in an e-mail that the utility had instituted an investigation to determine whether any laws were broken by Swartberg and to ensure that no other such services were being used by the company.
She noted that Eskom had also embarked on a policy review to ensure that, in the procurement of legitimate security support and services, similar actions were avoided in future.
A law firm that asked to remain anonymous said Eskom was also being investigated over similar allegations at some of its other projects.
* This article was first published in Sunday Times: Business Times
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