Singh, the shadow in the Molefe and Gupta scandals

NEWS ANALYSIS

He has not wept in press briefings. His cellphone records have not placed him on the phone to members of the Gupta family.

Nor has he made a dramatic exit from his job, in the “interests of corporate governance”, then made an equally dramatic return, only to be fired again. He is not Brian Molefe.

But Eskom’s chief financial officer, Anoj Singh, worked alongside Molefe when some of the most audacious deals linked to the Gupta family were done at Transnet and Eskom. The state-owned entities had a turnover of R62.2-billion and R163-billion in 2016 respectively.

After coming up the ranks in Transnet, Singh was appointed its chief financial officer in July 2012, under Molefe.

When Molefe left Transnet for Eskom, Singh, like a quiet, unassuming shadow, soon followed.

Now revelations in the #Gupta-Leaks email cache have thrust Singh, and his role in state capture allegations at both parastatals, into the spotlight.

Last week, the Democratic Alliance included Singh in charges laid with the police of corruption and racketeering after emails showed he made a number of trips to Dubai in 2014 and early 2015, staying at the luxurious Oberoi hotel, apparently paid for by the Guptas’ company, Sahara Computers.

During this period, the party points out, Transnet was negotiating a R1.8-billion contract with Neotel. An exposé by amaBhungane at the time revealed that the deal involved Neotel allegedly paying a Gupta-linked “letterbox” company, Homix, millions in commissions to ensure it got the contract.

As chief financial officer, Singh was also an important player in the procurement process for Transet’s purchase of more than 1 000 new locomotives. Last week amaBhungane reported that this deal appears to have been engineered to generate the Guptas and their associates some R5.3-billion.

In July 2015 Singh followed Molefe to Eskom. That year and into 2016, the state-owned company was at the centre of the Gupta-linked Tegeta’s purchase of Optimum Coal, which supplied Eskom. Meanwhile the value of Tegeta’s coal contracts on other mines feeding Eskom ballooned.

In December 2015 Singh again stayed at the Oberoi, again paid for by Sahara, according to the leaked emails. Neither Singh, nor Molefe, nor anyone at Transnet or Eskom, has admitted any wrongdoing.

In response to questions directed at Singh, Eskom simply said: “The allegations of the leaked emails, which we have yet to have sight of and the authenticity thereof which still needs to be proved, is subject to a criminal case. Consequently, we will not be commenting at this stage on those matters.”

But, at the very least, Singh appears to have failed to notice, on more than one occasion, that the company whose finances he manages may be wildly overpaying for goods and services. Under the Companies Act, a director must act in good faith and in the best interests of the company, and must exercise due care and skill. If they do not they are liable for, among other things, losses and damages resulting from a breach in their fiduciary duties.

After the Homix-Neotel scandal, Neotel’s chief executive and chief financial officer resigned, although neither was found guilty of any corruption. And although Molefe is fighting to get back into the driving seat at Eskom, Singh remains in charge of the books.

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Lynley Donnelly
Lynley Donnelly
Lynley is a senior business reporter at the Mail & Guardian. But she has covered everything from social justice to general news to parliament - with the occasional segue into fashion and arts. She keeps coming to work because she loves stories, especially the kind that help people make sense of their world.
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