It was only a few months ago that the Eskom board, management and the now suspended CFO, Anoj Singh, claimed that the New York-based management consultancy Oliver Wyman had found that payments totalling R1.6 million to Gupta-linked financial advisory firm Trillian were above board.
Eskom has now admitted that Oliver Wyman not only red-flagged the payments, it also recommended a review of the entire contract management system at the Megawatt Park-based public power utility be reviewed to eliminate deficiencies.
“The information to the media came from the office of the chief financial officer [Anoj Singh],” according to Business Day quoting a source within Eskom who insisted on anonymity as they were not authorised to speak to the media.
The publication also reported that Oliver Wyman last week forced Eskom to own up to its lies about Trillian payments after the consultancy “…saw media articles that alleged it had approved and given the payments the thumbs up”.
“In a letter of demand last week, they pointed out this was a deliberate misrepresentation and demanded Eskom corrects this,” the source claimed.
Eskom itself has admitted that it “received a legal query from Oliver Wyman concerning a factually incorrect statement we issued based on the firm’s technical review undertaken on Eskom’s behalf,” said Eskom’s head of legal services Suzanne Daniels.
“We have taken full responsibility for same, hence the correction. Oliver Wyman is fully justified to be aggrieved by this occurrence; we are in a process of remedying our relations [with the consultancy firm].”
Daniels refused to say whether it was Singh who deliberately misled the media at the time when tough questions where asked about his role in arranging R1.6 billion guarantee and R660 million prepayment to assist the Guptas to buy the Optimum coal mine.
Further queries at several media conferences centred on Singh’s role in Trillian payments, which coincided with the Guptas hosting him in Dubai at the same time the decision was made. In July, he was placed on precautionary suspension in a move the board said was primarily aimed at ensuring he doesn’t interfere with investigations.
“I want to place it on record that Eskom is treating the matter with the seriousness it requires and, to this end, appropriate steps, which cannot be divulged at this point, will be taken against anyone responsible for the statement in question,” Daniels said.
Business Day pointed out it would be the second time in 2017 that Eskom may have wilfully lied to cover its tracks on the Trillian payments. Parliament and the media were told it did “not pay a single cent to Trillian”, a blatant lie that Minister of Public Enterprises Lynne Brown repeated in a parliamentary response provided by Singh.