Eskom’s chief financial officer Anoj Singh was placed on special leave on Thursday, amid mounting allegations of improper financial dealings by the power utility with companies in the Gupta business empire,
“The Board of Directors of Eskom has taken a decision to grant Chief Financial Officer, Mr Anoj Singh, special leave pending an investigation,” Eskom said in a statement.
It said Calib Cassim, a chartered accountant with 15 years’ service at Eskom, would serve as interim chief financial officer.
Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown said the board’s decision to grant Singh special leave would facilitate a probe into Eskom’s affairs.
“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.”
The minister has asked for the Special Investigating Unit to probe all allegations of impropriety surrounding Eskom that have surfaced in the past ten years.
Brown stressed Eskom’s importance to the smooth functioning of the South African economy, while acting Eskom chairman Zethembe Khoza said: “We would also like to assure all stakeholders that the company is stable as evidenced by the recent financial results, and will continue delivering on its turnaround strategy.”
The announcement about Singh follows months of tumult at Eskom, with government in May demanding the departure of Brian Molefe as chairman after he was brought back to the position he left last year in highly controversial circumstances and Brown then changing the board.
Singh has been alleged to have accepted trips abroad from the Gupta family after signing off on Eskom’s much criticised coal deal with Tegeta Exploration and has faced questions about the payment of hundreds of millions of rands from the power company to Trillian without any clear benefit.
Eskom last week conceded irregular expenditure of R3-billion. This triggered concern that the company’s lenders could call in loans, which would expose the State to demands to pay over up to R300-million in government guaranteed debt.
Reports said Singh’s suspension may have been prompted by a threat from the Development Bank of Southern Africa to recall its loan of R15-billion if no action was taken against him.