Revealed: Documents show Eskom's Sean Maritz signed off on R400m 'kickback'

Johannesburg - Former Eskom interim CEO Sean Maritz is facing increasing scrutiny for his role in signing off on a questionable R400m payment from Eskom to a Hong Kong bank account, against all legal advice.

The R400m is widely viewed as a kickback and was apparently made to secure a $2bn (or R25bn) loan from China's Huarong Energy Africa to build or refurbish power stations last year

On Tuesday energy analysts Chris Yelland revealed the documents showing the deal, and questioned whether Maritz was facing any action.

"Following a great article in Business Day last week, here are details of the proposed R400m kickback to a dodgy HSBC Hong Kong bank account signed off by then acting @Eskom_SA CEO Sean Maritz, against all legal advice provided to Eskom:" he tweeted. 

The documents appear to show that Maritz did indeed sign off on a promised fee for securing the loan, as well as an invoice sent to Eskom for the fee.

On Friday Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown gave the Eskom board an ultimatum to hand her a report on the controversial loan agreement by close of business on Friday.

She said that should any impropriety appear to have been committed, she would take immediate and decisive action.

There has been no indication yet if Eskom complied with her demand.

The agreement first came to light when Business Day reported that former Eskom chief financial officer Anoj Singh negotiated a secret deal, which obligated Eskom to pay the R400m "signature fee" to an obscure offshore entity in Hong Kong for raising the $2bn loan.

Singh, who resigned from Eskom on Monday, was also questioned about the “sourcing fee” when he testified before the parliamentary inquiry into Eskom on Tuesday.

The Eskom board had written to the minister about the strategic cooperation agreement with Huarong Asset Management in September 2017, Brown’s spokesperson Colin Cruywagen told Fin24. He said the minister she had given the agreement her blessing on condition certain documents were provided. The documents, however, never materialised.

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

Eskom has so far not provided further details on the deal, apart from denying that any payment was made. 

In reply to Fin24’s questions about the fee, and conditions of the Huarong loan, Eskom gave a one-line reply, stating "Eskom has not made any payment to the company". Huarong invoiced Eskom for the fee in October.

Eskom is severely cash-strapped and is trying to raise money to ease its liquidity woes. The R400m that the utility supposedly sent to Hong Kong will add to concerns about cash flowing out of the utility. 

The Business Day report suggested the agreement was in return for Huarong granting R25bn to Eskom to build or refurbish power stations. The paper also reported that the terms of the loan agreement allowed Huarong to select and approve contractors.

Huarong is yet to respond to the allegations.

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