Singh sticks to a firm line of denial as he concludes testimony at Zondo commission - The Mail & Guardian

The former Transnet chief financial officer said he has no idea how R41-million flowed to a Gupta front company, ostensibly for unblocking a deal

2021-06-17 08:34:00 PM

The former Transnet chief financial officer said he has no idea how R41-million flowed to a Gupta front company, ostensibly for unblocking a deal

The former Transnet chief financial officer said he has no idea how R41-million flowed to a Gupta front company, ostensibly for unblocking a deal

, while preparing tenders for confined contracts.In what was Singh’s last day on the witness stand at the state-capture inquiry, evidence Myburgh confronted him with an email exchange betweenRegiments’ co-owner Niven Pillayand Janine Kamaar, the transformation manager at McKinsey.

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The management consultancy firm worked alongside Regiments, with its links to the now-fugitive Gupta family, on nine Transnet contracts.Myburgh read from an email in which Kamaar noted that the two companies did not appear to be arriving at the same contract value, because of differences in their models for the costing of the skills component.

To this, Pillay replied that Regiments had based its supply-development calculations directly on a memorandum Singh sent to Molefe.“The numbers that I am using is [sic] based on the Anoj memos to Brian, regarding these projects. Does not include expenses,” Myburgh quoted.

He then asked Singh if he would agree that it was highly irregular for Pillay to have had sight of the memoranda.“Regiments, in the form of Mr Pillay, had the memos between yourself and Brian, assuming that to be Brian Molefe, in relation to these projects. 

“Would you agree that it would be at this point in time where they are looking to complete their RFP [request for proposals] and looking to put in a tender, albeit on a confined basis, to have sight of those memos?”Singh said he would, and Myburgh proceeded to ask how the memoranda were leaked.

“I have no idea, sir,” the reply came.A forensic investigation in 2018 found that Transnet paid Regiments,Trillianand McKinsey R3.26-billion between 2005 and 2017.It further found that McKinsey was given preferential treatment to be appointed as consultants on negotiations to increase the capacity of Transnet’s coal-supply-line operations to two million tonnes a week.

Earlier testimony before the commission confirmed that Transnet and Regiments began working on the deal before the master service agreement was signed.McKinsey has agreed to pay back R870-million it earned from Transnet in consultancy fees. Its advisory role extended to the controversial acquisition of 1 064 locomotives by the state-owned freight and logistics company in a deal in which the costs rose from R38-billion to R54.5-billion as companies pledged to pay the Gupta family R9-billion in kickbacks.

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Asked by Myburgh on Thursday how such an increase could be justified, Singh said calculations of this order were not as simplistic as merely factoring in increases in consumer price index, but that other factors, such as risk premiums, had to be considered.

In testimony to the commission late last month,Singh saidhe was not familiar with the acceptable profit margins on locomotives, hence he could not detect that the deal had been so heavily inflated that it allowed kickbacks of 21%.He submitted it was precisely because of a lack of expertise that Transnet relied on input from advisers, leaving Myburgh to ask: “Do you see the irony?”

Singh and Molefe have vehemently denied testimony by former staff that they received piles of cash from the Gupta family.Both he and Molefe were seconded to Eskom in 2015, where they have been accused of enabling the Guptas to capture the power utility.

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