Eskom chief financial officer Anoj Singh has been suspended, finally. Now he must be held criminally accountable. By GREG NICOLSON.
Former finance minister Pravin Gordhan on Wednesday directly referred to Anoj Singh in a speech on state capture:
“You actually have a state-owned entity, through its chief financial officer, in this case, Mr Singh, actually offering a guarantee.” Singh recently admitted that Eskom gave Gupta-owned mining company, Tegeta a R1.6 billion guarantee, in addition to its R659 million prepayment, in its bid to purchase the Optimum Coal. Gordhan said it was remarkable Singh was smiling as he presented Eskom’s financial results and made the admission “instead of having a worried look”.
It appears Singh might finally be held to account. He has been implicated in allegations that Eskom has repeatedly given beneficial deals to Gupta-linked companies. Essentially, Singh was there and signed the contracts that former Eskom CEO Brian Molefe is being criticised for, that the #GuptaLeaks have confirmed are real, far beyond what was imagined.
Singh was smiling, until Thursday night, when Eskom confirmed that he was placed on special leave after government officials and creditors pressured the giant corporation to act. Singh had taken trips to Dubai, on the Gupta family tab, and had signed off on the R1.6-billion guarantee to Tegeta, the prepayment to the Gupta-mining company that allowed it to buy Optimum Coal, and payments to Trillian, a Gupta-linked consultancy firm that was paid R495-million after it was subcontracted by McKinsey. Eskom never had a contract with Trillian.
Singh was the next obvious culprit to fall. After a meeting with the Development Bank of South Africa (DBSA), Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba on Thursday called Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown to raise his concerns over Singh. Eskom is heavily indebted and it has been reported that the DBSA might recall its R15-billion loan to Eskom if action isn’t taken against the CFO. While it might be an unlikely move from the DBSA, the possibility raised the concern that other lenders might also take action on their loans and cripple the power utility.
Brown’s spokesman Colin Cruywagen said, “The Board’s decision paves the way for the investigation to take place in a transparent way and ensure confidence in the process.
“I have urged the Board to expedite the investigation and ensure that the company can concentrate on its core mandate.
“A smooth functioning Eskom is critical to the country’s economy. This was evident this week when StatsSA released the infrastructure spend for 2016/17 which showed that Eskom spent R73-billion for the period.”
Chartered accountant Calib Cassim has reportedly been appointed interim CFO while Singh is suspended. Eskom last week tried to present its recent financial results in a positive light, but it’s heavily indebted and faces a range of investigations on state capture.
The most immediate is the parliamentary inquiry into Eskom’s involvement in state capture. Singh, along with other key Eskom leaders, have been called to testify. President Jacob Zuma’s son Duduzane, who has partnered with a number of Gupta companies, as well as the Gupta brothers have also been called to appear before Parliament.
On Thursday, DA shadow minister of public enterprises Natasha Mazzone said, “The DA is also of the belief that Mr Singh has a criminal case to answer for and we have committed to laying charges for possible breaches of the Public Finance Management Act.” She continued, “His possible role in a range of corruption scandals and dodgy deals at Eskom, which include but are not necessarily limited to the R495-million Trillian contracts and the grossly reduced arbitration settlement from R2.1-billion to R577-million for Tegeta, must be fully investigated.”
Singh isn’t the first person to be held accountable for Eskom’s allegedly dodgy dealings, and he is unlikely to be the last. The key challenge remains: he and others like him must be held criminally accountable. DM
Photo: Anoj Singh (EWN)