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No way Anoj Singh could have been ignorant about PFMA - analyst

Jan 24 2018 13:28
Tehillah Niselow

Johannesburg- As former Eskom chief financial officer (CFO) Anoj Singh’s testimony in Parliament continued into the late hours of the night, questions were raised about his denials that he was ever aware of wrongdoing at the power utility.

“You have to look at governance procedures - the board has to have faith in three key individuals: the CEO, the CFO and usually the chief operations officer,” Khaya Sithole, a chartered accountant and analyst, commented to Fin24.

Sithole disputed Singh’s claims to the state capture inquiry in Parliament that he was unaware that not declaring fruitless and wasteful expenditure was a crime, saying that as CFO, he would have signed off on Eskom’s financial statements.

“The idea that someone isn’t aware of the PFMA (Public Finance Management Act), he’s lying in Parliament, the auditors would have asked [him] if they’d complied with the PFMA.”

Sithole added that the main focus of the PFMA is rules issued to civil servants about the spending of public money, and how to avoid fruitless and wasteful expenditure.

Singh’s denials and vague testimony were criticised on Tuesday by former finance minister and MP Pravin Gordhan, as well as the inquiry’s evidence leader Advocate Ntuthuzelo Vanara, who expressed frustration with the former Eskom CFO.

“I’m getting a distinct impression from you, sir, that you are very evasive… and that you are quick to blame others, where you think the blamed lied (sic),” Vanara said in frustration.

Singh replied that this was an unfair observation and he couldn’t remember events nine months back or further when he was questioned about the R600m Eskom-Tegeta prepayment and the McKinsey-Trillian R1.6bn payment.

Koko not reigning yet

Former acting Eskom CEO and head of generation Matshela Koko is scheduled to appear before the parliamentary hearing into Eskom on Wednesday.

Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba told the SABC in Davos, Switzerland, on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum (WEF) meeting that he welcomed Singh’s resignation on the eve of his appearance in Parliament and implored Koko to also step down out of his own “conscience” to “do the right thing”.

Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa announced widespread changes to the parastatal on Saturday, including a new board and a directive that all executives implicated in wrongdoing, including Koko and Singh, should be removed.

Acting group head of capital Prish Govender handed in his resignation on Tuesday.

Govender was suspended last year and investigated for his role in alleged financial wrongdoing in the McKinsey and Trillian matter.

After a disciplinary hearing cleared Koko in December, he returned to work earlier this month as head of generation but not as acting CEO.

In his submissions to the parliamentary inquiry, he complained that he was an anti-corruption crusader at Eskom and is therefore being targeted to discredit government.

When contacted by Fin24 to ask whether he would follow the lead of Singh and Govender and resign, Koko replied via WhatsApp message “my focus is on parliament now”. 

Eskom spokesperson Khulu Phasiwe couldn’t be reached for comment by phone or WhatsApp.

The board is expected to meet later this week and newly appointed chairperson Jabu Mabuza cancelled his plans to attend the Davos meeting as president of Business Unity South Africa to instead focus on Eskom.

Increased pressure on Ramaphosa

The chairperson of the parliamentary inquiry, Zukiswa Rantho, kicked off proceedings for 2018 by telling MPs on Tuesday that they have become mini celebrities as people recognise them in “malls” and other public places for standing up to state capture.

Congress of South African Trade Unions parliamentary officer Matthew Parks welcomed the increased oversight role played by lawmakers, but questioned whether this will go far enough to hold people accountable.

“The NPA (National Prosecuting Authority) is just sitting, twiddling its toes (sic), it’s just talking [about seizing assets] at the moment,” he commented to Fin24.

Parks pointed out that if a teacher or another civil servant had been facing charges of wrongdoing, they would have been arrested.

But Parks remains hopeful that the evidence coming to light in Parliament “will put pressure on Cyril Ramaphosa to clean up Eskom”.

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