Eskom officials ‘fooled the system’ to pay R659m upfront for Gupta coal
Senior finance officer tells state capture inquiry how the power utility deviated from standard procedure to make the prepayment for coal
Eskom’s primary energy division was given only an hour and a half to push through a controversial half-a-billion rand payment to the Guptas on April 13 2016, Snehal Nagar, who oversees finances in the division said.
Appearing before Judge Raymond Zondo at the state capture inquiry on Tuesday‚ Nagar described how Eskom deviated from standard procedure to make the prepayment for coal.
He received an e-mail from the head of his division‚ Ayanda Ntetha‚ on April 12 which included a pro forma invoice (a preliminary bill of sale) for R659m worth of coal from the Gupta company.
The next day‚ he received a call from Maya Bhana-Naidoo who was a general manager in the office of then CFO Anoj Singh. Bhana-Naidoo said the payment needed to made by 2pm that day.
Bhana-Naidoo’s instruction included documentation outlining a decision by Eskom’s board at a meeting the night before to approve the deal.
“Everyone needed to be on board to effect this payment and Bhana-Naidoo said she would chat to everyone to make sure they were on board‚” he said.
Nagar spent most of his testimony describing the standard procedure of procuring goods‚ further highlighting where Eskom deviated from the procedure on this transaction.
He said the system had to be “fooled” in order to create and settle an order as if the utility had received the coal.
“What the team did was they amended a purchase order of the Brakfontein contract to reflect an order of R659m. The payment to Tegeta was effected on the Brakfontein contract‚” Nagar said.
He said subsequent to that‚ the correct procedure was followed and the transaction to Brakfontein was reversed and effected on Tegeta.
At the time of the prepayment‚ the Guptas were actively lobbying for the purchase of Optimum Coal Holdings from mining company Glencore. Tegeta needed about R650m to buy Optimum and Eskom agreed to give Tegeta R659m as prepayment for coal‚ their reason being that Tegeta needed money upfront to meet production requirements.
But the leaked “Gupta e-mails” and an investigation by the National Treasury revealed that the money may have been used by Tegeta to buy Optimum.