Eskom board did not know they were funding Optimum purchase

21 November 2017 - 17:40 By Bianca Capazorio
Optimum's business rescue practitioner had earlier testified that a Gupta representative had approached him earlier in the day to indicate that they were short about R600-million of the purchase price‚
Optimum's business rescue practitioner had earlier testified that a Gupta representative had approached him earlier in the day to indicate that they were short about R600-million of the purchase price‚
Image: REUTERS

A member of the Eskom board has testified that she had no idea that they were financing the purchase of Optimum coal mine when they signed off a pre-payment of nearly R600-million to Tegeta.

Viroshni Naidoo‚ testifying before Parliament's inquiry into state capture at Eskom‚ said she had attended the late night meeting in April 2016 where the pre-payment was authorised.

She said late night meetings had become the norm at Eskom and they were regularly asked to sign off on issues without having had sufficient time to read through documents properly.

She said the board had been told the Friday night meeting was necessary as two contracts were due to expire‚ and therefore could not be dealt with in the board's scheduled meeting on the following Monday.

She said they had been made to understand that the pre-payment was necessary to secure coal - without which Eskom would lose 600 Megawatts of power‚ which could launch load shedding.

Optimum's business rescue practitioner had earlier testified that a Gupta representative had approached him earlier in the day to indicate that they were short about R600-million of the purchase price‚ due to be paid that Monday.

Asked by evidence leader Ntuthuzelo Vanara whether the board had “willingly aided and abetted” the shifting of funds which would allow Tegeta to purchase the Optimum coal mine‚ she responded “absolutely not. I was buying coal.”

She said the first she had heard of the money being used to fund the purchase of the mine was when it came out in the Public Protector’s report.

“I was horrified‚” she said.

She said she had been convinced that “it was because it was a necessity and that we really needed this coal”.

She said the first she had heard of a R1.6-billion guarantee to Tegeta had been during a televised media conference at which Eskom executives were asked about the guarantee.

She said this amount would have been within the ambit of the board and so went to check her emails.

She said while no guarantee request had ever come to them‚ they had received an email regarding a pre-purchase of coal for round robin voting.

She said she was also “horrified” to discover that the board had voted on what they thought to be a pre-purchase of coal‚ but that this was turned into a guarantee.

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