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R659m Tegeta bill 'startling', but bosses gave order to pay - official

Mar 06 2019 09:03
Jan Cronje, Fin24

Receiving an instruction to complete a payment of R659m within just 1 hour and 22 minutes was "certainly startling", but a top official at Eskom says he and his team went along with it as the instruction came from the top of the company.

Snehal Nagar, Eskom’s head of finance for its primary energy division, was testifying before the commission of inquiry into state capture on Tuesday about a controversial prepayment made in April 2016 to Gupta-linked mining company Tegeta Exploration and Resources.

Nagar told the commission that he first heard of the proposed payment on April 12, 2016, when he received an email which included a proforma invoice for R659m payable to Tegeta.

The next day he was phoned by Maya Naidoo, an official in the office of Eskom’s then-CFO Anoj Singh, ordering him to make the payment within two to three hours.

Nagar said he asked Naidoo for written confirmation and the necessary approval documents. These were sent via email at 12:38.

He and his team then had to make the payment within 1 hour and 22 minutes of receiving the email. But, as he repeatedly told the commission of inquiry on Tuesday, he did not know why the payment was rushed or so important.   

Nagar said the initial problem his team faced was that a prepayment contract for Tegeta was not loaded on the power utility's system, so the payment could not be made.

But Eskom did have another contract with a Tegeta company, that of the Brakfontein coal mine.

He said there was no time to follow the correct process, so his team amended a purchase order on the Brakfontein contract so the payment to Tegeta could be effected via the Brakfontein agreement.

The transaction was later reversed and processed against the correct prepayment contract.

'Startling and intriguing'

Nagar said he first sought official go-ahead - which he received - before amending the Brakfontein coal supply order.

In response to a question by the evidence leader, Nagar said the correct processes "could not be followed" according to the instructions of his superiors.

Nagar was asked by both the evidence leader and the chair why he didn’t push back against the instructions.

In response, he said that while the rush to make the payment was certainly "startling and intriguing", he and his colleagues thought it best to carry out the instructions of their superiors.

These included direct instructions from Eskom's board and the office of the CFO, he said.

"We had no context to the discussion [around] why the board tender committee is approving such a contract," he said.

"As intriguing or as startling as this request was – there is a request from the highest office, or one of the highest offices in Eskom."

eskom  |  anoj singh  |  state capture inquiry
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