Scandal-hit state power utility Eskom placed chief financial officer Anoj Singh on special leave on Thursday after he was linked to a series of questionable deals with members of the Gupta family who are friends with President Jacob Zuma.
“The board of directors of Eskom has taken a decision to grant chief financial officer Anoj Singh special leave pending an investigation,” the company said in a statement released via Twitter by its spokesman, Khulu Phasiwe. Public enterprises minister Lynne Brown had “noted” the decision, it said. Calib Cassim, a chartered accountant with 15 years’ service at Eskom, has been appointed interim CFO.
Eskom is spending tens of billions of dollars on new power plants that are years behind schedule and is at the centre of allegations that the Guptas, who are in business with Zuma’s son, used their relationship with the president to win state business.
The company disclosed R3bn of irregular expenditure in its financial results on 20 July, a figure which its auditors said they couldn’t independently confirm. Zuma and the Guptas have denied wrongdoing.
Lawyer Geoff Budlender published a report last month that Trillian Capital Partners, a financial services firm linked to the Guptas, had submitted an invoice for R30.7m to Singh in April last year, which was paid the same day. The utility later revealed that it had paid a total of R495m to Trillian, despite having said earlier that the companies hadn’t done business together.
A series of e-mails leaked to the local media allegedly show that the Guptas paid for Singh to fly to Dubai and paid for his hotel and spa treatments. Singh declined to comment on the claims at Eskom’s financial results presentation last week, saying he was still compiling a report to submit to the Eskom board.
Singh is the latest in a series of top Eskom officials to resign or be removed from their posts, including Brian Molefe as CEO, his temporary replacement Matshela Koko and board chairman Ben Ngubane.
Johannesburg’s Business Day newspaper reported that Singh was suspended after the state-owned Development Bank of Southern Africa threatened to recall a R15bn loan it had made to Eskom if action wasn’t taken against Singh and other officials responsible for its qualified audit opinion.
Patrick Dlamini, the bank’s CEO, confirmed that the loan had been granted and dispersed “pursuant to a stringent credit process”, while declining to answer further questions.
The Democratic Alliance, the main opposition party, welcomed Singh’s removal and said it will pursue criminal charges against him.
“It does seem that progress is being made toward cleaning up the rot that has set in at Eskom,” Natasha Mazzone, the DA’s public enterprises spokeswoman, said in an e-mailed statement. “We still have a long way to go to ensure that the state-owned power utility works for the people of our country and that it is no longer looted for the financial benefit of a few.” — Reported by Mike Cohen, (c) 2017 Bloomberg LP