An investigation into the state of governance in a public entity: through the application of world governance indicators: the case of ESKOM, South Africa
South Africa’s monopolistic power utility, ESKOM, generates up to 95 percent of electricity utilised in the country. The provision of electricity by ESKOM is considered as an essential service that is critical for everyday and economic activities. However, the country has experienced load shedding (sporadic electricity supply) over the last decade (since 2006 – 2008), which has become more frequent in recent years (2015 – current). Load shedding, amongst other challenges, can be directly linked to poor service delivery which is often associated with poor corporate governance. Governance transgressions in government entities or state-owned entities (SOEs) such as ESKOM are mostly communicated to the public through media platforms; therefore, the role of the media is described in literature as being the so-called “watchdogs”. In addition, the media can also be used to facilitate various aspects of governance (e.g., openness and transparency), which can ultimately reduce corruption and enhance good governance in the public domain. Good governance in SOEs is guided by principles, codes, and legislative frameworks, and the effectiveness thereof can be evaluated or verified using tools such as governance indicators. A globally applied tool is comprised in the World Governance Indicators (WGI) that are based on the following six domains: 1) voice and accountability, 2) political stability and absence of violence, 3) government effectiveness, 4) regulatory quality, 5) rule of law, and 6) control of corruption. Therefore, the primary aim of this study was to determine the overall state of governance of ESKOM, measured against the WGI, and to subsequently evaluate what the specific governance transgressions are, as published by South African media platforms. In addition, a measurement instrument for organisational performance was also applied in measuring the following dimensions of sustainability: economy, society and environment. Both the WGI and organisational performance measuring instruments were applied simultaneously to assess and evaluate the overall state of governance in ESKOM. Online news articles reporting on issues in ESKOM were extracted for analysis (assessing and evaluation) from The Sunday Times, Eye Witness News (EWN) and the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) over a period of 12 months (31 July 2017 – 31 July 2018), allowing for a maximum of 53 articles. The methodology followed mainly a qualitative approach, using the six WGI to cluster the content of articles as either negative or positive. An organisational performance framework, based on sustainability dimensions (economy, society and environment) was also modified in collaboration with WGI as an appropriate measurement instrument. Governance performance is specifically the performance domain as it is anticipated to that good governance practices have a positive impact on the organizational decision-making and subsequently influencing other performance domains of the organization in a positive manner (Crucke and Decramer, 2016:6). The results (assessments and evaluations) indicated that governance effectiveness performed the best, while the poorest performance was recorded for control of corruption. Both these WGI outcomes were strongly supported by two dimensions of sustainability; namely: 1) economy and 2) society. Based on the total percentage outcomes for all domains, ESKOM should prioritise the following indicators from as economic and society perspective: 1) control of corruption, 2) political stability and absence of violence/terrorism, and 3) regulatory quality. Other indicators associated with good governance practices or organisational performance which included the following: 1) rule of law, 2) voice and accountability, and 3) governance effectiveness. It has become evident from this study that ESKOM is making good progress regarding decision-making, planning, and implementation within the domain of governance effectives; however, the SOE’s ability to control corruption is highlighted as a major concern in this study. The state of governance, measured through online media reports, could be used as an effective approach to alert or inform regarding potential governance transgressions that may require further investigation.