Analysis

Eskom State Capture Whistleblower Helped Guptas In Eskom Capture

AN ESKOM disciplinary hearing has placed the so-called whistleblower Suzanne Daniels at the centre of the alleged state capture by the Gupta family at the power utility. A cyber forensic investigation into emails of various former Eskom executives including former executive Matshela Koko, downloaded from Eskom’s server, go against the damning submission Daniels made at the Eskom State Capture parliamentary inquiry last year. The emails bombshell brings into scrutiny the integrity of parliamentary inquiries.

Those facing parliamentary inquiries have always maintained that they are a witch hunt used as a platform by some members of parliament to settle personal vendettas or as a vehicle for organised character assassination.

Represented by Advodate Tembeka Ngcukaitobi, Eskom claims that a string of emails downloaded from its server point to Daniels’s hand in assisting the Guptas in the parastatal’s state capture scandals. She’s accused of having secretly sent commercially sensitive information to an email belonging to Salim Essa, dubbed the “Gupta Kingpin” by the media.

She’s also accused of being at the centre of the McKinsey/Trilian R1.6bn saga and the R659million upfront payment to Tegeta. This assertion is also contained in a submission by Venete Klein, made to parliamentary enquiry into state capture at Eskom. She served on Eskom’s Board from 2014 until 2017.

Eskom released the emails at a recently-held disciplinary hearing against Daniels. She’s charged with misconduct and negligence of the performance of her duties.

Eskom says she shared confidential information with an outsider, via email “Businessman inforportal1@zoho.com” which she “in all probability knew” belonged Essa.

The documents include draft statements from the chairperson of Eskom, a draft contractual document, a draft letter and input from Essa’s email for a public statement that was issued on Gupta’s contracts at Eskom.

The public statement included the fact that the Guptas held less than 5% of coal contracts and 80% was awarded to four big companies and Eskom contends this was the input from Essa.

The cyber forensic investigation into the emails exposed how she had blind copied “Essa” in an email she had “cc’d” her colleagues as proof she was hiding his email from her colleagues. She’s also accused of blind copying Essa in an email of a coal supply agreement to former executive Matshela Koko. Advocate Tembeka Ngcukaitobi represents Eskom.

Daniel’s Parliamentary Submission Disputed

Before even facing her charges at Eskom, she had already faced counter-charges to the damning allegations made in parliament’s state capture inquiry.

Former Deputy Minister of Public Enterprises, Ben Martins disputed a meeting which Daniels said was attended by her, Ajay Gupta, Duduzane Zuma and Salim Essa on the 29th July 2017.

“The Official Department of Public Enterprises Deputy Minister’s diary reveals that on the 29 July 2017 I had attended the funeral service of Mr Ronnie Mamoepa at 7am at St Albans Cathedral in Pretoria. I attended the funeral service and at approximately 1:30 pm I departed from St Albans Cathedral and was driven to St Georges Hotel in Irene by a member of the South African Police Services VIP protection unit, to attend the ANC NEC Lekgotla which was scheduled to commence at 2pm,” Martins declared in his submission to the Eskom Parliamentary Inquiry.

He showed how he had attended an ANC Lekgotla following Mamoepa’s funeral including the commission he participated in, people with whom he sat during the entire proceedings including at dinner that evening. He was adamant that he had left from there to go to his official residence and had never met the Guptas that day. He listed the people who could attest to his claims but the nature of these parliamentary inquiries is such that witnesses can make untested claims with very little or no evidence demanded to back their allegations.

Another submission to the inquiry, this time by Venete Klein, places Daniels at the centre of the bungles that occurred between the offices of the Chairman, Minister of Public Enterprises Lynne Browne and the Board. Klein initially writes highly of Daniels and how she had brought structure and efficiency to Eskom’s secretariat. “However, concerns did later arise when Ms Daniels made herself available to also serve as Head of Legal in addition to fulfilling her other functions as Company Secretary and SGM in the office of the Chairman,” she says.

“In my view, the consolidation of the two roles disposed of a measure of the independence and accountability one would experience where the roles of the Company Secretary and the Head of Legal are kept separate,” she writes.

Her submission shows how Daniels had literally run Chairperson Ben Ngubane’s role including the other three that she held and “the risk created by Ms Daniels not being able to fully apply herself to matters requiring her attention, in her capacity as Head of Legal”. In one instance Klein cites Daniels’s decision to go against Ngubane’s instruction in the appointment of then CEO Brian Molefe.

Klein suggests that Daniels had on some instances, misinformed Ngubane or gone against his instructions. She cites a letter of 19 June 2015 which Daniels sent to the Minister of Enterprises Lynne Browne on behalf of Ngubane, in his capacity as then interim chairperson of the board, in which he motivated for the appointment of Molefe as chief executive officer of Eskom. Correspondence between Ngubane and Daniels shows that Ngubane had advised Daniels that the motivation for the appointment of Molefe was premature as he had not yet served 6 months as acting chief executive officer. He further advised that the correct approach would be to motivate for an extension of Molefe’s secondment to Eskom.

In another case, there was a bungle of Molefe’s term of contract which Klein suggests was as a result of Daniels and withholding information from the Board. Daniels had withheld a letter from Browne approving Molefe’s remuneration but the Minister had instructed that his contract be on a 5-year term. The Board had then offered Molefe a permanent contract as was the case with all ceos, which Molefe signed. And when information surfaced that the Minister had instructed the term to be 5 years, the Board was “faced with the challenge of having to change the signed permanent contract to a 5 year fixed term contract in accordance with the Minister’s instructions”.

The change in the term of contract would prejudice Molefe’s pension benefits, Klein writes in her submission. He had already entered into a permanent contract based on what the Board thought were the instructions of Browne and advice from Eskom’s executive remuneration officer, Anton Minnaar, who was involved in the appointment of 7 previous ceos.

There were yet further bungles with correspondence between the Minister and Chairman wherein it later turned out, that the Minister had not responded to recommendations made about Molefe’s pension benefits when the Board thought she had.

The now notorious Molefe early retirement payout, Klein claims, was written by Ngubane at the advice of Daniels who said it didnt require board approval.

Contracts with McKinsey & Trillion 

Klein says she had learnt from questions to Browne in parliament that McKinsey had subcontracted work to Trillion. In a board meeting following the parliamentary question, the board only learnt then that an additional contract – over-and-above an 8-month board-approved to McKinsey – had been signed. This additional contract allowed McKinsey to subcontract.

At this meeting the Board also learnt that Trillion had done work for the Eskom Finance Company as well as some work in risk assessment. These matters had not previously come to the Board.

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