Anoj Singh. Picture: ESA ALEXANDER
Anoj Singh. Picture: ESA ALEXANDER

Eskom’s former group chief financial officer, Anoj Singh, has defended his role in the contracts the utility entered into with Gupta-owned coal producer Tegeta Exploration and Resources and with global consultancy firm McKinsey as being above board.

These contracts have been identified as allegedly corrupt by former public protector Thuli Madonsela and the National Prosecuting Authority.

But Singh — who resigned with immediate effect on Monday — insisted in Parliament on Tuesday that his transactions with Tegeta and McKinsey were authorised by higher authorities within Eskom and were concluded on the basis of decisions by the Eskom board or by the board’s tender committee.

Singh appeared before the parliamentary inquiry into state capture being conducted by the portfolio committee on public enterprises. His verbal testimony was backed up by a submission of nearly 400 pages, which included lengthy annexures of supporting documentation.

He was grilled for over four hours by evidence leader Ntuthuzelo Vanara about the controversial contracts, his trips to Dubai and the “misinformation” that Eskom provided to Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown, which resulted in her lying to Parliament.

It was the first time since his suspension in September 2017 that Singh has given his side of the story. He was put on special leave in July pending an internal investigation and disciplinary inquiry, which has fallen away because of his resignation.

However, the DA has laid a charge against him for the alleged contravention of the Public Finance Management Act while the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse has laid charges of fraud, corruption and extortion against him.

“I believe that I have always acted within the framework and parameters of my responsibilities. I was not the person that approved any transactions on my own but acted on the resolutions of the board of directors or its subcommittees,” Singh told MPs.

But Vanara suggested after going through a number of contracts that benefited Tegeta that Eskom, with the assistance of Singh, had bent over backwards to benefit the company.

Singh said that the Reserve Bank had inquired about possible bank accounts and assets that he held offshore. He had made the required declaration to the Bank that he did not have such interests.

“I have no knowledge of any company registered in my name globally,” Singh said in reply to questions by Vanara.

He continued to deny any involvement of the Gupta family in the payment of the various trips he made to Dubai where he stayed in the luxurious Oberoi Hotel. He was not able to explain an invoice bearing his name that was directed to Gupta-owned Sahara Computers for the costs of at least one trip.

A copy of the invoice — retrieved from the leaked Gupta e-mails — was presented to him by Vanara. The invoice related to the cost of accommodation at the Oberoi Hotel between December 16 and 24 2015.

Singh said a United Arab Emirates (UAE) acquaintance by the name of Mr Alberushi had paid for the costs of the trip in December 2015. He had met Alberushi in 2013 or 2014. He had property, construction and retail interests in Dubai and was interested in establishing ties with SA, while Singh wanted to know about the UAE. He did not know if Alberushi had links with Sahara Computers.

Singh did not believe it was necessary in terms of Eskom policy to disclose these trips to Eskom as Alberushi had no business interests in the utility.

He said he had made numerous trips to Dubai for personal and professional reasons. Some of these trips were paid for by Transnet or Eskom, some by Alberushi and some by himself.

“The Gupta family did not pay for any of my travels,” Singh insisted and neither had its company Sahara Computers.

It was coincidental that he was present at the Oberoi Hotel at the same time as Rajesh Gupta and Sahara Computers CEO Ashu Chawla in June 2015.

“I think I have seen the Gupta brothers in passing in Dubai.

“I have never had any formal meetings with them in Dubai. But if you are staying in the same hotel at the same time you will probably see each other.”

He said he met the Gupta family at the business breakfasts organised by their newspaper, The New Age, which Transnet and Eskom had sponsored.

Singh rejected Vanara’s suggestions that Eskom had provided Brown with inaccurate information for her reply to a question in Parliament.

Replying to questions, Singh said he did not believe the answer provided by Eskom was inaccurate. “I still maintain that we did not mislead in terms of the responses to the questions. The answers to the questions were accurate, based on the questions that were posed.”