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South Africa's Eskom acting CEO could face investigation over tenders

The logo of state power utility Eskom is seen outside Cape Town's Koeberg nuclear power plant in this picture taken March 20, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South Africa's main opposition party wants the anti-graft watchdog to investigate whether the acting CEO of power utility Eskom violated procurement rules for allegedly giving contracts to a firm where his stepdaughter was a director.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) said on Sunday that it would write to the Public Protector, a constitutionally mandated watchdog, urging a probe to establish if Matshela Koko violated state procurement guidelines by awarding the tenders.

The Sunday Times reported that Eskom awarded tenders worth 1 billion rand ($80.5 million) to a company where Koko's stepdaughter was a director at a time when he had oversight of the department at the utility that gave out the contracts.

"Koko's reported actions could show that he is compromised and unfit to be the head of Eskom," the DA said in a statement.

Koko's stepdaughter, Koketso Choma, has also denied any wrongdoing, the newspaper said.

She has since resigned from her directorship at Impulse International, the firm that received the contracts, Eskom said.

"Koko's position is that he was not aware that his stepdaughter was a director at Impulse International, but as soon as he found out he asked her to resign last August," Eskom's spokesman Khulu Phasiwe said.

"The lady is no longer part of Impulse International."

Phasiwe said Eskom had given nine contracts to Impulse International since 2014, amounting to about 1 billion rand.

Koko was named acting chief executive of the country's sole power firm from Dec. 1, replacing Brain Molefe, who resigned after being implicated in allegations of influence peddling in a report by the anti-graft watchdog. Molefe has denied any wrongdoing.

Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown, who appointed Koko, wants Eskom's board to investigate Koko's role in awarding the contracts, the newspaper said.

Brown, who has oversight over Eskom among other utilities, told the Sunday Times: "If there is any proof of wrongdoing, Koko will face a disciplinary process."

($1 = 12.4246 rand)

(Reporting by James Macharia; editing by Susan Thomas)