Singh stuns Zondo inquiry on greatest Gupta looting being ’quite a significant achievement’
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Former Transnet CFO Anoj Singh still believes that the highly irregular contract for the procurement of 1064 locomotives that set the scene for the greatest Gupta looting was “quite a significant achievement” in South African history.
His proclamation that the R54 billion contract would go down in the country’s history as one of its best achievements prompted Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo to sit up and look at him in confusion.
“I think it was quite a significant achievement for Transnet to acquire 1 064 locos in the time that it did. I think it’s probably quite significant in South Africa, if not globally.
“I mean you don’t have a company that orders 1100 locomotives at any given time,” Singh said.
But, Zondo intercepted to ask Singh to clarify his statement. “Do you think people will remember that more than the corruption?
“That’s the first thing that comes to people’s minds when we talk about those transactions – the corruption,” Zondo said.
Singh returned to the Commission of Inquiry into Allegations of State Capture on Thursday.
He faced questions about a number of “tainted” transactions that led to the massive looting of the state-owned enterprise.
The Zondo commission heard how the Gupta enterprise pocketed about 85% of the total estimated R49 billion of state funds via dodgy deals at Transnet.
Singh was chief financial officer of Transnet at the time but told Zondo that he had no knowledge about the Guptas looting of the state.
The Special Investigating Unit (SIU), which recently asked the court to cancel the dodgy contract for 1 064 locomotives, found the contract “was based on a flawed market demand strategy… and that the laws, government instructions and Transnet policy were deliberately ignored to make the tender awards, conclude the contracts and effect payment to some of the manufacturers”.
Singh also denied being party to the Gupta’s dodgy transactions or that he was too incompetent to notice the looting.
He said, in fact, he found that when he approved such a transaction, “there was a justifiable” cause for such expenditure as it was based on the market indicators that existed at the time.
Evidence leader advocate Anton Myburgh said as much as Singh could tell the commission he could justify the expenditure, the money-flow evidence showed looting including a 21% kickback for Gupta-associate Salim Essa.
Myburgh said the cash-flow evidence showed Essa earned 50% in all fees paid to Regiments Capital by McKinsey from contracts awarded by Transnet.
“Just so that the public understands this. You were relying on the advice of an organisation (Regiments); it was paying 50c for every rand to Mr Essa.
“I mean, do you understand how radical that is?” Myburgh said.
Singh said he had no idea Essa was earning this kickback or that Essa was involved in the procurement of locomotives.
Singh has been excused from the stand as the commission will continue to hear evidence from former Public Enterprise Minister Malusi Gigaba on Thursday evening.
Singh is expected to return to the commission on Friday.