Eskom’s chairman backs controversial chief financial officer
On the same day that a leading advocate published a scathing report adding to the mountain of evidence against Eskom’s chief financial officer, the utility’s new chairman has expressed confidence in Anoj Singh.
In his major findings on Thursday, advocate Geoff Budlender said under Singh’s leadership, Eskom irregularly and illegally paid R266m to Trillian Capital, a company owned by Gupta lieutenant Salim Essa.
However, Eskom denied having paid Trillian or having had any contract with the consultancy. This came after Singh was shown to have travelled on holiday to Dubai, where he stayed at a hotel at the expense of companies owned by the Gupta family.
Asked if Eskom would investigate any of the allegations against Singh, the utility’s acting chairman, Zethembe Khoza, said the board had "deliberated on Mr Singh’s competence and capability and consequently expressed full confidence in his professional ability to provide Eskom with the financial stewardship it requires at this time".
Khoza’s stance flies in the face of advice given to the board by its communications strategist, Khulani Qoma, who said Khoza should take Singh and former acting CEO Matshela Koko through a disciplinary process. It is understood it is Qoma the board wants to discipline as a result of this advice.
Budlender’s report on Trillian Capital found the company had not conducted any work for Eskom and therefore the R266m appeared to not have been earned.
The work for which Trillian was paid was conducted by Regiments Capital, where Trillian CE Eric Wood had worked before joining the company.
“Trillian had not tendered for this work. Trillian had no contract with Eskom for this work,” said Budlender. The reputed senior counsel was asked by Tokyo Sexwale, Trillion’s independent chairman, to conduct an inquiry into allegations the consultancy was involved in illegal efforts to capture key elements of the state.
“It is difficult to see on what basis Eskom, a third party which was not party to those negotiations, could have lawfully made payment to Trillian for work for which it did not tender, for which it did not have a contract and which it did not perform,” said Budlender.
The report also alleges Wood told global consultancy McKinsey he would discuss with Singh a contract that would result in Eskom appointing Trillian for a project that was out to tender. This was despite Trillian failing a risk assessment conducted by McKinsey on Eskom’s behalf, due to the political connections of its majority shareholder Essa.
Budlender’s findings come on top of growing allegations against Singh. Leaked e-mails show Singh travelled to Dubai at the expense of the Gupta family’s companies, while the family’s Tegeta Resources was negotiating to acquire a mine supplying Eskom with coal.
Eskom said the “infamous leaked Gupta e-mails are the subject matter of various legal and criminal investigations and as such we will not comment on them”.