File image: IOL.

CAPE TOWN - Former interim CEO of power utility, Eskom, Sean Maritz is facing extended scrutiny for the role he played in signing off on a suspicious R400 million payment from Eskom to a Hong Kong bank account, ignoring all legal guidance. 

The whopping R400 million is considered a ‘kickback’ which was allegedly paid to secure a R25 billion loan from China’s Huarong Energy Africa to build or refurbish power stations last year. 

This comes after energy analyst Chris Yelland revealed the documents on his Twitter page, presenting the deal. 

 

Yelland then questioned whether Maritz would face any legal action. 

According to the provided documents, it appears that Maritz did sign off on a promised fee for securing the loan, as well as an invoice sent to Eskom for the fee. 

This comes after Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown on Friday gave the Eskom board an ultimatum to hand over the loan agreement by close of business. Brown said that if any misconduct appears, she would take immediate and decisive action. 

There has since been no sign whether Eskom complied with her demand or not. The payment was first brought to light when Business Day reported that former Eskom chief financial officer, Anoj Singh was involved in a secret deal which required a R400 million “signature fee”. 

Singh, who on Monday resigned from the power utility, appeared yesterday before the parliamentary inquiry into Eskom where he was questioned about the “sourcing fee”. 

Brown’s spokesperson, Colin Cruywagen said that the Eskom board in September 2017 wrote to the minister about the agreement with Huarong Asset Management. 

Cruywagen said that the minister approved the agreement, on condition that specified documents were provided. However, the documents did not materialise. 

“Minister Brown supported the Eskom board’s written request to sign a strategic cooperation agreement with Huarong Asset Management. "The agreement was high level and non-binding, with no financial terms”, said Cruywagen. 

READ ALSO: #EskomInquiry: Gordhan accuses Anoj Singh of lying

On the R400 million fee, Eskom blatantly denied the payment. "Eskom has not made any payment to the company", said Eskom. 

Huarong is yet to answer to these claims. 

Meanwhile, Maritz admitted in October last year to hiring his friend on a R100,000-per-month contract without following proper procedure, but rejected that this was irregular.

This came to light a week after Maritz was appointed interim group chief executive officer at Eskom, replacing Johnny Dladla. 

He said the awarding of the contract was adjudicated upon by a panel as per Eskom's internal processes. Maritz said that his six months written warning in relation to the conflict of interest expired in 2010, and had thus been duly expunged. 

He also asked for space and time to focus on executing his duties. Eskom spokesperson, Khulu Phasiwe confirmed this, saying that Maritz had defended himself by saying that he had no intention of duping the Eskom board. 

"Essentially, he admits that it was a mistake on his part not to declare his relationship with his friend when he hired him. 

But he says that it was not done wilfully on his part because there was a panel dealing with awarding of the contract. He thought that since he was not the one dealing with [awarding of the contract] directly, he did not need to declare his friendship," Phasiwe said.

"Action was taken already and he was given a six months written notice sentence and was warned that any repeat of the misconduct would result in stronger disciplinary action taken against him. According to corporate governance rules, he has served his sentence and seven years later it has expired. So the case has been expunged and cannot be used against him". 

In the same statement, Maritz also refuted claims that he had deleted some information from the server which had evidence implicating Gupta companies in controversial deals with Eskom and also linking suspended executive Matshela Koko to transactions with the Guptas, Trillian Capital Partners and Tegeta Exploration and Resources.

Meanwhile, Eskom said that it has noted the statements made by consultancy firm McKinsey in relation to paying back the fees paid to it in 2016. In October, Eskom said it sought Gupta-linked firm Trillian and McKinsey's "cooperation" in returning the R564 million and R1 billion, respectively, paid to them "unlawfully" in 2016 and 2017.   

The power utility said that its lawyers are handling the matter, and will in due course advise on the way forward.

ALSO READ: Eskom interim CEO blames "oversight" in friend's monthly R100k contract

TOP STORY: FACTSHEET: Major facts you need to know about Anoj Singh

- BUSINESS REPORT ONLINE