Fear grips coal power station amid allegations of contract rigging

An atmosphere of fear has gripped the Kelvin Power Station (KPS) in Gauteng after the suspension of procurement manager Lenda Mabaso for allegedly questioning the random picking and choosing of coal suppliers by the station’s general manager (GM), Oupa Seopa.

According to insiders within the KPS, Mabaso was suspended after her relentless confrontation with Seopa, who is accused of ruling with an iron fist.

 Mabaso was suspended last week after her work laptop was seized from her without being charged. Not only that, the suspension, according to KPS staff sympathetic to Mabaso, was activated shortly after Mabaso requested a grievance hearing to be initiated by human resources (HR) against Seopa.

Instead, an HR official and Seopa are said to have headed to her office to serve her with a vague suspension letter alleging she had requested financial assistance from suppliers.

Sunday World has spoken to several coal suppliers who claim they were approached after Mabaso’s suspension to implicate her.

“All hell broke loose after the head of procurement (Mabaso) started asking tough questions about the different treatment of suppliers and the willy-nilly chopping and changing thereof. It appears like the GM, who does not take kindly to being questioned, decided it was too much, and she had to go,” said an insider.

Our informants said Seopa attempted to convince Mabaso to go away silently through a mutual separation agreement, which she apparently turned down, insisting she had done no wrong.

It was after this that she applied for a sick leave, only for her laptop to be taken. Upon her return she was suspended.

Mabaso, said sources within the station, started asking tough questions just as KPS external auditors were scheduled to visit the company.

“Lenda (Mabaso) got to learn there are two other new coal suppliers (Welase Mining and Green Mineral) that the GM is putting into the coal system after the coal process was officially closed on the 30 May 2023,” Mabaso’s colleague said.

“She had also started being relentless in questioning how other coal companies are on-boarded. She questioned the GM about how other suppliers
differed from one another, why they received different treatment, and whether the GM’s approval of a particular company depended on what it could offer in exchange.

“Her questions are also being asked by many of us because it is clear that there is supplier preference over others.”

Seopa denied allegations against him, saying the only relationship he had with KPS coal suppliers was one that was professional. “As general manager, I seek to maintain relations with all our key stakeholders. But to the effect that there is an insinuation that these relations may be personal, nothing could be further from the truth.

“These are professional relationships on behalf of KPS and not in my personal interest,” he said.

Seopa also defended himself against allegations he was deliberately stalling the appointment of a chief financial officer (CFO) and commercial manager to hog all the power and avoid having too many scrutinising eyes.

“The company interviewed candidates for the position of CFO, and the selected candidate declined the offer on the day they were meant to start at
Kelvin. As a result, Kelvin is going out to the market to look for the CFO candidate. The commercial manager will be appointed by the appointed CFO.”

Seopa said pointing fingers at him was misguided because the company had a fully functional board, where “the buck stopped”.

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