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NUM and Eskom execs face off in Parliament over Koeberg contract and mismanagement

NUM and Eskom execs face off in Parliament over Koeberg contract and mismanagement

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Cape Town – Allegations of collusion relating to a Koeberg contract and a blame game of mismanagement between labour and Eskom executives were laid bare in a joint sitting in Parliament.

Trade unions and Eskom’s presentations to the public enterprises and mineral resources and energy committees revolved around employee suspensions and a controversial contract with an international company that is plagued by delays, among others.

National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) provincial full-time shop steward Phumzile Mvovo said executives had initiated eight investigations since late last year, which led to worker suspensions.

From these probes, three suspensions emanated from what Eskom deemed to be poor management relating to work on the long-delayed steam generator replacement (SGR) project.

Presenting Eskom’s case on the long-delayed SGR project, Eskom acting chief nuclear officer Keith Featherstone said management had identified poor project management, inadequate contract management and a lack of financial discipline, which included an instance where officials made no provision for a R650 million order against Eskom by the Constitutional Court, as reasons for delays on the project.

The court order was made in favour of French company Framatone.

The SGR project is key to the powerplant’s possible extension beyond July 31, 2024.

Featherstone said the power utility’s generation board has begun an independent investigation into the SGR matter and it should be completed by the end of September.

Featherstone said in 2010, the estimated cost of the SGR project was pegged at R20 billion, but if reassessed in today’s terms “it would be significantly different”.

Eskom chief executive André de Ruyter said while he supports unions, he found it “peculiar” that NUM ventilated some issues in Parliament without going thorough internal processes first. He raised concerns that NUM also represents senior manager Justice Gumede, which De Ruyter said was unprecedented.

Gumede oversaw the contract with Framatome to manufacture and store the six new steam generators.

Gumede is one of three senior managers suspended with full pay this year in relation to delays in the project’s build, which ultimately led to the Constitutional Court ordering the power utility to pay R650m in 2021.

However, Mvovo told MPs that the delays were due to executives’ interference and singled out COO Jan Oberholzer, whom he said caused one of the delays by demanding a payment of €15 million (about R258 million) to Framatone, ultimately snowballing to Gumede’s “unfair and discriminatory” suspension.

Complaining that the allegations were not put forward to them ahead of the meeting, De Ruyter said: “The NUM member in question (Gumede), who is the aggrieved who raised these allegations, is not only the contract manager for the steam generator replacement project, but is also the project manager.

“The accountability for the delivery of the project very much rests with the individual in question.”

He said the Eskom generation board meeting dealing with SGR found that slapdash management of the project was evident with a number of deficiencies in basic claims management.

De Ruyter said they were not aware of the alleged collusion by the French company and Oberholzer, but he urged NUM against making “vague and embarrassing claims” and to raise the matter through internal mechanisms.

He said Eskom would make the findings available through Parliament.

ANC MP and public enterprises committee chairperson Khaya Magaxa and other MPs took exception to De Ruyter’s issue with NUM raising problems in Parliament.

“You can’t just bureaucratise whistle-blowing. If I see those structures won’t be protective for me, I’ll go to the NPA, SIU and Parliament,” Magaxa said.

Magaxa and mineral resources and energy chairperson Sahlulele Luzipo said the Eskom executives should spend more time convincing them against NUM allegations instead of directing MPs.

Luzipo lambasted the executives for scant details on Framatome and how it ended up in court.


Cape Argus

Original Article

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