Eskom tardiness hinders effective oversight, say fuming Scopa MPs
Parliament’s public accounts watchdog want parliament bosses to intervene against Eskom and the department of public enterprises (DPE) for constantly submitting information late.
The standing committee on public accounts (Scopa) could not proceed with a hearing on Eskom’s use of expansions and deviations from normal tender processes, which was scheduled for Tuesday, because the entity missed Thursday’s deadline to submit required information and submitted a 127-page document on Monday afternoon.
It is not the first time Scopa has clashed with Eskom and the department over what Scopa chairperson Mkhuleko Hlengwa described as a “rookie, schoolboy mistake but a mistake which denies the committee to conduct efficient and effective oversight”.
Postponing the meeting, MPs said they were not adequately prepared to interrogate Eskom as they had not had sufficient time to read through the document.
“This is increasingly becoming a trend and I am trying to be very calm because it is a trend we have been observing with Eskom when a hearing has been scheduled,” said a fuming Hlengwa.
He said continuing with the meeting would force MPs to ask cosmetic questions, proceeding with what would amount to a “tick-box” exercise.
“That is why I am annoyed. It’s not right. It will be regrettable if we continue babysitting such big entities on the basis of due process. This is Administration 101, if not grade 12 or grade 8. It is basic.
“It has all the hallmarks of telling the rest of us to go and jump off the nearest cliff. A 127-page presentation on complex financial matters and us having to chase after Eskom and DPE when the deadline was not met. Then yesterday an e-mail came through at 12.55pm saying here is the presentation but it has not been approved.”
Hlengwa said this meant they were in fact sent a draft presentation.
He would take up the matter with the house chairperson responsible for oversight, he said, and if parliament’s presiding officers need to intervene, they should.
MPs have previously queried the legality of a shareholder compact which requires that before Eskom submits any correspondence to Scopa, such correspondence should be approved by the minister.
DA MP Alf Lees said this was part of the problem if not the entire problem.
He said in other committees, reports would come directly from an entity to the relevant committee and not via a department.
“Can we resolve that in future reports be sent directly to us at the same time they are sent to the ministry and the department?” he asked.
DPE director-general Kgathatso Tlhakudi apologised, saying the department received the report from Eskom at 10.17pm on Friday night. He said due to time constraints, the report was submitted to the committee without the approval of private enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan.
Hlengwa rejected the apology, saying there has been constant wrangling with the entity about due process and the inability to communicate efficiently.
Eskom board chairperson Prof Malegapuru Makgoba apologised and vowed the tardiness would not happen again.
It emerged earlier this year that Eskom applied for R70bn in spending deviations in less than one year. The entity told Scopa in February that the power utility submitted deviation applications worth R1.2bn in the first quarter, R68.7bn in the second quarter and R421m in the third quarter of 2020/21.