Fresh Gupta scandal hits Eskom

 ·29 Mar 2016
Eskom logo on paper

Mark Pamensky was appointed to the Eskom board three months after joining the board of Gupta-owned Oakbay Resources and Energy, Eskom revealed on Tuesday.

The Eskom website describes Pamensky as group operations officer of Blue Label Telecoms, which he isn’t, while there is no mention of him being a director at Oakbay, which he is, BizNews publisher Alec Hogg disclosed on Tuesday.

Fin24 checked both Eskom and Oakbay’s websites, which confirm he is an independent non-executive director on Eskom and Oakbay’s boards. Eskom’s website said he has “experience in effecting turnaround strategies”.

Defending his appointment, Eskom spokesperson Khulu Phasiwe told Fin24 that Pamensky was appointed to the Eskom board in December 2014 and Oakbay Resources and Energy’s board three months earlier in September 2014. Eskom was informed of his departure from Blue Labels, he said.

“Mr Pamensky’s interests, as with all directors on the Eskom board, are managed in terms of the legal and governance requirements relating to disclosure of personal financial interests,” said Phasiwe.

“Eskom is confident that it has a robust system and processes in place to ensure that actual, potential and perceived conflicts of interest of all its directors and employees are managed effectively.”

Does this compromise Eskom?

Hogg queried the dual board membership, saying the investigation into state capture should start with a probe into this relationship.

“Oakbay’s own bios of its directors describe Pamensky as ‘currently employed’ as Blue Label’s COO (chief operating officer), a position he resigned from last November,” Hogg explained. “When leaving, Pamensky told Blue Label’s co-CEO Brett Levy he was setting up his own property development company. Instead, he moved into Guptaland.

“With three other CAs (chartered accountants) on Eskom’s board, his appointment makes no sense. Even less when you discover Pamensky is also a director of the Gupta mothership company Oakbay, whose recently expanded coal operations have a single major client – Eskom.”

Eskom is buying coal for its Arnot power plant from Optimum, which is being bought by Oakbay’s Tegeta, a company also owned by President Jacob Zuma’s son Duduzane. Optimum is selling 100 000 tonnes of coal a month to Oakbay, a person told Bloomberg in January.

The Indian-born Guptas’ business dealings are at the centre of an ANC investigation into “state capture”, a process where private companies control state decisions and contracts.

Public Protector Thuli Madonsela is also approaching Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan for additional funding to enable her to investigate Zuma’s links to the Gupta family, according to Netwerk24.

Additionally, Eskom is being scrutinised by National Treasury, which is in the process of reviewing Eskom’s coal contracts. Gordhan said in February that “SOEs (state-owned entities) are not sacrosanct. We are willing to take a tougher look at them.”

Oakbay did not respond to Fin24’s request for comment.


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