/ 1 March 2019

Singh was undeterred by Huarong loan red flags — Eskom treasurer

Former Eskom chief financial officer Anoj Singh.
Former Eskom chief financial officer Anoj Singh. (Oupa Nkosi/M&G)

Former Eskom chief financial officer Anoj Singh was going to sign a term sheet binding the power utility to the conditions of a controversial multibillion rand loan from Huarong Energy regardless of internal reservations, the Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture heard on Friday.

Eskom treasurer Andre Pillay told the commission on Friday that Singh was seemingly determined to sign a term sheet in advance of the R25-billion loan being approved by the power utility’s board. Pillay said the signing of term sheets was unusual.

According to Pillay, Singh said he viewed the term sheet as non-binding, but Eskom’s treasury team as well as the legal team handling the transaction warned him that certain conditions — including an almost R200-million commitment fee — were binding.

“Mr Singh was going to sign this thing regardless of what I say,” Pillay said, explaining that Singh had created a climate of fear at Eskom’s treasury.

“There was an element of self-preservation,” Pillay told the commission, recounting how Singh made it clear he would get rid of people who stood in his way.

Eskom commenced negotiations with the Huarong Energy regarding a loan agreement in late 2016. During his testimony, Pillay emphasised that he was uncomfortable with steps being taken seemingly to push through the deal prior to Eskom’s internal processes being followed.

Eskom’s treasury was mandated to negotiate but not conclude the financing agreement with Huarong, Pillay explained.

The Huarong loan has been stalked by controversy since it emerged that then interim Eskom chief executive Sean Maritz was implicated in a kickback scandal in which he was alleged to have signed off a R400-million payment from Eskom to an unknown Hong Kong bank account. Maritz was suspended in January 2018 and resigned a month later.

The matter is currently the subject of a Special Investigating Unit probe.

Eskom board chair Jabu Mabuza raised the Huarong matter during his appearance before the Zondo commission on Monday, saying that the power utility has taken a view that it is not going to pay R25-billion loan.

During his testimony on Friday, Pillay cited the revolving door of Eskom chief executives as having an effect on the transaction.

Matshela Koko allegedly backed Singh’s signing of the term sheet, while Johnny Dladla was more reticent. According to Pillay, when Maritz took over Huarong he made direct contact with him.