EXCLUSIVE: Eskom finance chief ‘in the loop on Trillian pay’
Whistleblower says Singh knew, with the first invoice sent in early 2016
Eskom chief financial officer Anoj Singh has been linked directly to payments of hundreds of millions of rand to a Gupta-linked company that the power utility had previously denied knowing about.
New evidence has also been unearthed on a number of trips by Singh to Dubai at the time of major deals between Gupta entities and parastatals he worked for. The Guptas picked up the tab for the trips.
The latest revelations came a few days before the portfolio committee on public enterprises received briefings from the South African Council of Churches and the State Capacity Research Project on the findings of their investigations into allegations of state capture. This is in preparation for the committee’s inquiry into Eskom’s affairs.
After months of public denials, Eskom last week finally admitted to paying R495m to Trillian Capital Partners, owned by Gupta lieutenant Salim Essa.
Eskom’s top executives, including Singh, blamed the previous denials on confusion around Trillian’s relationship with the power utility.
But Business Day has obtained new evidence from a whistleblower that shows Singh had direct knowledge of the Trillian payments as long ago as February 2016 — nearly two months before the first payment of R30.6m.
E-mails show Singh was directly sent the first Trillian invoice itemised for "Eskom corporate plan deliverable" on February 11 2016.
The invoice was sent to Singh by Trillian chief financial officer Tebogo Leballo, who confirmed to this newspaper he sent it but said he could not speak further.
The invoice was resent on April 14 2016 and was paid the same day by Eskom. These disclosures place even more pressure on Singh, whose tenure — first as chief financial officer at Transnet and now at Eskom — has coincided with Gupta family entities netting deals worth billions.
At last week’s briefing Singh was asked to explain allegations that R400,000 was paid into a shelf company established by the Guptas allegedly for his benefit. He was also asked about travel to Dubai on the Guptas’ account at the time of major deals involving Transnet and the family. More evidence has been unearthed showing that Singh was in Dubai between December 17 and December 24 2015 and stayed at The Oberoi hotel on the Gupta tab. This coincided with Trillian becoming the "supplier development partner" for multinational consultancy firm McKinsey, which was working for Eskom. It was as a result of McKinsey choosing Trillian to become its supplier development partner that the company was able to do work for Eskom and bill it. McKinsey last week denied it had any formal contract in place with Trillian.
Singh made four other trips to Dubai between June 6 2014 and February 26 2015. On at least one occasion he was with Rajesh Gupta and his stay at the Oberoi Hotel was paid for by the Guptas’ Sahara.
Singh said he was preparing a "tell all" document for the Eskom board on the allegations he was confronted with at last week’s briefing. He did not personally respond to detailed questions on Sunday.
Eskom acting CEO Johnny Dladla has said the utility had launched an independent review of deals with Trillian.
Eskom spokesman Khulu Phasiwe said Singh had briefed the board and executive management team on Trillian "prior to the legal and forensic investigation being announced".
"In addition, Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown has asked the board to conduct ‘short-term investigations’ on allegations of impropriety that have surfaced at Eskom. This investigation will be in addition to the proposed investigations by the [Special Investigating Unit] and the parliamentary committee on public enterprises," Phasiwe said on Sunday.
Singh was Transnet group chief financial officer when a R1.8bn contract was awarded to telecoms company Neotel, which resulted in payments of at least R36m to Gupta-linked company Homix. During Singh’s tenure at Eskom, the Guptas have secured coal supply and transport contracts through Tegeta worth at least R12bn.