'We are going to nudge you until Eskom is effective,' frustrated Scopa chair tells officials

“Our message to you, Eskom, is simple: shape up or ship out,” says Scopa chair Mkhuleko Hlengwa

23 November 2021 - 18:41
Scopa chair Mkhuleko Hlengwa lamented Eskom's performance, saying MPs are fundamentally unhappy with the entity.
Scopa chair Mkhuleko Hlengwa lamented Eskom's performance, saying MPs are fundamentally unhappy with the entity.
Image: Gallo Images / Beeld / Lerato Maduna

MPs in parliament’s public accounts watchdog committee, Scopa, expressed frustration at Eskom’s management and board members' inability to explain irregular expenditure, adherence to due processes and consequence management.

This as the entity grapples with more than R37.2bn of irregular expenditure, according to its presentation to Scopa on Tuesday.   

CFO Calib Cassim attributed the continued irregular expenditure to the lack of condonations, newly identified expenditure relating to previous years, and other issues.

 “Progress in obtaining condonations of irregular expenditure has been slow for a number of years. Until condoned, expenditure on affected contracts remains irregular. Towards the end of the year, we received notice of condonation of 2% of transactions valued at R9.5bn.”

The entity said irregular expenditure as at 2019 and until 2021 involved 151 suppliers and, in most cases, was as a result of lack of discipline by employees.

MP Bheki Hadebe demanded quantified numbers on the consequence management implemented. Eskom cited dismissals, suspensions, and six- and 12-month written warnings, but could not provide the total number of implicated officials or say if any of them were repeat offenders.

Chairperson of the committee Mkhuleko Hlengwa lamented the entity’s performance and reliance on condonations.

“We are fundamentally unhappy with Eskom.  Things have to change,” he said. 

“Expansions and deviations are not a norm and it is increasingly becoming frustrating that the granting of these expansions and deviations is not resulting in the improvement of delivery of electricity.  

“The only way to ensure adherence to due processes is that we are going to probe, probe and probe until the right things are done, until effective and meaningful consequence management is effected and the necessary corrective consistent with the law is implemented,” he said.  

Another MP, Benedicta  van Minnen, echoed similar sentiments, suggesting that Eskom officials were giving soft answers to their questions on issues faced by the entity.

“Consequence management seems to be relatively vague. Also, when it comes to reclaiming of monies, the response to that is vague, so we really do need a more specific report from Eskom as to exactly what they are doing internally, because at this point it really seems like there is a soft answer to everything and we’re talking about large amounts of money and the ramifications are quite dire,” she said.  

Hlengwa echoed similar sentiments, saying that the committee was running thin on patience at the entity which often receives bailouts from the state.

“We cannot throw financial solutions at non-financial problems. There has to be fundamental and substantive change and reform at Eskom which will ensure we actually arrive at a functional and effective Eskom. And if that means people must be fired, then so be it.”

“While our patience may be running thin, it is not going to expire because if Eskom fails, the country is in trouble.”

MPs vowed to hold the entity accountable until the issues they are grappling with are resolved. 

“Our message to you, Eskom [officials], is simple, shape up or ship out.

“We are going to nudge you and we are going to be persistent until the right things are done. I am saying, you can rest assured of our persistent presence until things are done,” said Hlengwa.

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