Scandals dog public enterprises head Lynne Brown
The kitchen keeps getting hotter for public enterprises minister Lynne Brown. Every time she takes a burning pot off the stove another scandal comes to the boil.
First there was Trillian.
In December last year Brown told parliament Eskom had not paid a cent to the financial advisory company that was majority-owned by Gupta lieutenant Salim Essa at the time.
Last month Eskom admitted this was a lie. It had paid Trillian R495m.
In this case Brown seems to have been misled by Eskom, whose admission came only after Brown overhauled Eskom’s board and appointed Johnny Dladla as acting CEO. Eskom sources say Dladla wants to get to the bottom of questionable payments worth billions. Pressure from the banks for Eskom to tackle corruption or face a R94bn loans recall must be helping to concentrate his mind.
Last week parliament said its inquiry into Eskom, due to start this month, would expand to include two more state entities that report to Brown’s department, Transnet and Denel. She is likely to come under fire for stacking both these boards with Gupta cronies.
At Transnet the Guptas stand accused of receiving R5.3bn in kickbacks from China South Rail after it was awarded locomotive contracts worth R25bn.
Brown’s appointment of Richard Seleke as director-general of public enterprises in December 2015 will raise questions. He served on the Transnet board and was head of economic affairs in the Free State under its then MEC, Mosebenzi Zwane.
The Gupta leaks and former public protector Thuli Madonsela have exposed Zwane as a key Gupta ally. He helped the Guptas buy the Optimum coal mine after being appointed mineral resources minister.
The leaks also show Seleke is likely to be a Gupta conduit to government, using the name "Business Man" in e-mails, though he has denied this. "Business Man" sent sensitive documents from Eskom and Denel to the Guptas.
Last month Brown was hit by a new scandal when The Times revealed the Guptas had hosted her PA, Kim Davids, for four nights at Dubai’s Oberoi hotel. Davids said she’d paid her own way. But leaked e-mails show her R32,000 bill was made out to Sahara Computers and forwarded to Tony Gupta, who approved it. Brown has asked Davids to step down.