Sun. May 26th, 2019

Hold the phone: Maria Ramos may have some competition for Eskom role

Maria Ramos EskomFinance Minister Tito Mboweni has put the brakes on suggestions that Maria Ramos will become Eskom’s “fixer”, and stated that it’s far from a done deal.

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Former Absa chief Maria Ramos looked almost certain to snare a job as Eskom’s Chief Reorganisation Officer (CRO) by the end of April, as weekend reports suggested she was a shoo-in for the role. In fact, some media outlets said that the businesswoman had already secured the position. But it would seem that such assertions are not true.

On Sunday, we weighed up the potential pros and cons of Maria Ramos taking the reigns at Eskom. She has a sterling record of qualifications and a dazzling educational history, but the financial expert has also been blamed for the ill-advised sale of MTN and Ramos has also previously admitted to “fixing” the value of the rand.

Maria Ramos to Eskom? It’s not a done deal

Finance Minister Tito Mboweni suggested on Sunday evening that Ramos would not be Eskom’s only path forward, however. As SABC reported, Mboweni says no one has been appointed so far but that Ramos is among those being considered. He says processes are underway but so far no appointments have been made.

Eskom also distanced themselves from reports that the ex-Transnet boss had been signed, sealed and delivered for the utility. Judging by Mboweni’s utterances, it would appear that the whole process is still at the “interview” stage, and nothing has yet been set out in stone. Tito didn’t mention who else was in the frame.

What would a Chief Reorganisation Officer do?

The remit for whoever ends up as the CRO – Maria Ramos or otherwise – would be to oversee Eskom’s finances, contracts, and maintenance of facilities. As Cyril Ramaphosa revealed in February, the power utility will also be split into three units: Generation, transmission and distribution.

The president has set up a task-team to handle the recovery, but it needs someone to take charge of the mammoth turnaround required. Whether it’s Ramos or a competitor, they would be responsible for liaising with the executives of both government and Eskom, ensuring information and directives are received swiftly and correctly.

Eskom hits the skids

The urgency to appoint a “general manager” to the unbundling process has been ramped-up after another disastrous week for Eskom. Although there’s been no load shedding, plenty of the state’s money had to be sacrificed: The power giants were given an emergency R17bn bailout after a proposed loan from Brics failed to arrive on time.

There’s also a whiff of conspiracy in the air: The DA’s Natasha Mazzone has argued that Eskom is blowing through their budget at an alarming rate, just so they can keep the lights on up until the general election on Wednesday 8 May. The shadow public enterprises minister blasted them for alleged “dishonest conduct”.

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