Who created Eskom suspension letter? IT expert tells Zondo something's not adding up

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State Capture commission chairperson, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo.
State Capture commission chairperson, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo.
Deaan Vivier, Netwerk24
  • IT expert Cecil Louwrens conducted a digital forensics assessment for Eskom with a view of checking the integrity of emails and documents.
  • Louwrens referred to a suspension letter that was included in the Eskom bundle, saying that  the metadata of these letters of suspension showed that former company secretary Suzanne Daniels was the creator.
  • This, however, needed to be corroborated with other details in the metadata.

Things took a technical turn at the Judicial Commission of Inquiry into State Capture chaired by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo on Wednesday when the commission heard from information technology expert Cecil Louwrens of Quintessence Forensics.

In a brief appearance, Louwrens unpacked information including emails and computer documents for the commission, paying particular attention to documents cited in an evidence bundle related to power utility, Eskom.

Louwrens conducted a digital forensics assessment for Eskom with a view of checking the integrity of emails and documents to ensure that documents and data that was admitted as evidence before the commission was not tampered with.

Louwrens referred to a suspension letter that was included in the Eskom bundle, saying that while the metadata of these letters of suspension showed that former company secretary Suzanne Daniels was the creator, this needed to be corroborated with other details in the metadata.

Louwrens also pointed out that the documents in Daniels' email box were created by Microsoft Word and not Word for Mac. Daniels told the commission that former Eskom board chair Ben Ngubane instructed her to draft the suspension letters.

"The documents I found on Ms Daniels mailbox were not created on the same computer as this. Her documents are Microsoft Word for Windows, not for [Apple Mac]. I can affirm that it was not created on the same computer," Louwrens said.

Evidence leader Advocate Pule Seleka asked: "The application [Mac] Word shows that the document was created [on] an Apple computer. Are we saying the document in Ms Daniels computer mailbox did not have a document made by an Apple computer?"

Louwrens said the metadata shows that the computer where the letters were drafted was registered with Eskom. He said while Suzanne Daniels is shown as creator of the document, it could have been picked up via the system by the user, but it can also be easily edited and cannot be relied on alone.

"The creator of the document cannot be changed through negligence, but it is possible to change it without knowing who the metadata originally stated as the creator. Last modified information is also easy to change, but it cannot be done directly. You would have to go to another screen to change that value," Louwrens said.

The investigator said it would help the forensic assessment along significantly if the commission could find out if Eskom supplied employees with Apple computers. Louwrens says he could return in a few weeks after he is given access to all of the relevant information.

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