Carol Paton Writer at Large

Eskom’s chief financial officer, Anoj Singh, is a remarkable man. A lesser man would have long since fled the scene of the crime or perhaps even cried. But Singh is shameless.

The positive spin he put on the financial results at last Wednesday’s presentation was probably to be expected. He focused on the 14% increase in earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation. In a debt-laden entity such as Eskom, which is also in the process of bringing large and expensive assets onto its balance sheet, this is not the best indicator of financial health.

He glossed over the 85% drop in profit before tax and the large rise in debt costs. And it was only towards the end of the two-hour session that he admitted Eskom’s R20bn cash reserves were up against what is regarded as the liquidity buffer — and that as Eskom’s going concern status relies on it being able to borrow, the loss of access to the debt capital markets could pose a serious problem.But what was most impressive was how he sat through the lengthy ordeal with no sign of discomfort while his integrity was repeatedly questioned. On some points he offered very detailed explanations — for example, the reason Eskom decided in arbitration to lower the R2bn fine on the Gupta-owned Optimum mine to R577m in April 2017. Apparently this has a long and complicated history involving a change in mining equipment and financial and legal issues. At other times he calmly batted away questions related to him personally. On two hugely expensive trips to Dubai courtesy of the Guptas, he promise...

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