Feature

Infoportal1@zoho.com Is At The Heart Of Eskom’s State Capture – Who Owns It?

By Pinky Khoabane

THE email “Business Man inforportal1@zoho.com” took centre stage during Eskom Chairman Jabu Mabuza’s testimony at the State Capture Commission when he named former executives of the power utility as having leaked confidential information to the email – a “third party”.

Mabuza confirmed the findings of a disciplinary hearing against the so-called whistleblower Suzanne Daniels last year, that she, and other executives acted in unison and channelled confidential information to the email which Eskom claimed was “likely to be” that of Salim Essa, a business associate of the Gupta family.

A cyber forensic investigation into emails of various former Eskom executives including Matshela Koko, downloaded from Eskom’s server, revealed that Daniels together with other executives at the time, had leaked confidential information and facilitated irregular payments to Trillian and McKinsey.

During her disciplinary hearing which led to her dismissal from the company, Daniels said she believed the email belonged to Public Enterprises DG Richard Seleke. Advocate Nazeer Cassim who presided over the hearing rejected Daniels’s claim. “On the probabilities, I reject the suggestion that the emails were intended for the attention of Seleke. First, Seleke in his official position would generally speaking be entitled to such information. There would be no need for secrecy. Secondly, Ms Daniels’ explanation was that Ngubane had informed her that it was Seleke’s email when they started working together in April 2015.”

Mabuza named one of the former executives as Koko, whom he said wasted no time in leaking information to “Business Man” once he had returned to Eskom after a few months’ suspension.

Koko was among four executives who were suspended in 2015 during an inquiry into the reasons behind loadshedding. The enquiry found no wrong-doing on the part of the executives and two opted for a settlement with Eskom, another took the company to the CCMA and later settled, while Koko returned to work.

Mabuza read from several emails from Koko’s email address to infoportal@zoho.com. One of these, Mabuza said was an email of a programme designed by Eskom in 2015 to invest in top engineers. This was a programme aimed at addressing the challenges of load-shedding and skills shortage. While Mabuza said it started in 2015, information on the programme shows it was started in 2013.

In his submission to the Commission, Koko explained that the email address was given to him by Daniels.

“12. Allegations of leaks of Eskom confidential information to third parties.

“12.1 Mr Koko denies that he distributed confidential Eskom documents via his Eskom email account, or via his personal email, to a person or entity that was a “third party” as referred to and intended in your letter.

“Mr Koko denies, that the portal email infortal@zoho.com was the email of a “third party”. That address had been given to him by Ms Suzanne Daniels” (at the time a Senior Manger in the office of the chairman of Eskom of Directors and previously Senior Manage responsible for Legal & Administration in Mr Koko’s office, in his capacity as Group Exeuctive: Technology & Commercial) as an address he had to use with her for the purpose of assisting her to provide information on a day to day to the chairman regarding topical operational aspects of Eskom business. Mr Koko used the address for that purpose”.



Daniels was Eskom’s company secretary, a senior general manager in the office of the chairman, and head of legal. A former board member Venete Klein, in her submission to Eskom’s parliamentary inquiry placed Daniels at the centre of the bungles that occurred between the offices of the Chairman, former Minister of Public Enterprises Lynne Browne and the Board.

At Daniels’s disciplinary hearing, which was under the newly appointed Eskom board and executive, it was revealed that 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 was also accused of blind copying “Essa” in an email of a coal supply agreement to former executive Koko.

And so the question is why, if they worked in unison in facilitating the Gupta entry into Eskom opportunities, as Mabuza alleges, Daniels hid Essa’s email from Koko.

In her plea explanation during her disciplinary hearing, Daniels said the newly appointed CEO Phakamani Hadebe had offered her a cash settlement to walk away than fight for her job. She also claimed he had threatened her with a drawn-out process if she fought back. She felt she had been “singled” out.

Daniels was also unhappy with Adv Cassim’s finding that her whistleblowing was “opportunistic”. She had been willing to please the Eksom board, Adv Cassim said, going so far as to pay the then Chairperson Dr Ben Ngubane’s legal fees which were over R800,000 for a matter that had nothing to do with Eskom.

 

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