Archive | Public utilities

Parliament set for tough questioning

Editorial…

…..Busy session to get some answers

….  In the absence of any move by the National Prosecuting Authority, particularly the somnambulant National Director of Public Prosecutions Shaun Abrahams whose department seems confused as to whether 100,000 leaked Gupta e-mails constitute prima facie evidence of fraud or not, it falls to a parliamentary committee in Cape Town once again to be the first official venue for any debate of consequence on the State/Gupta corruption scandals.

In one of the first meetings of the recently re-opened Parliament, the Public Enterprises Portfolio Committee is to receive a report back from legal experts on the setting up of the Eskom enquiry.

Party vs the Church

Oddly enough, it was in also Cape Town, at St George’s Cathedral, in early June, where the fight first began.    Later, the venue was room 249 in the National Assembly, where the Public Enterprises Portfolio Committee was addressed by Bishop of the South African Council of Churches (SACC). He had then just released a report on corruption by the SACC Unburdening Panel.

It fell to the Bishop the first shot and there was a sobering moment of silence in parliamentary room 249 when he finished talking. It felt like a small moment in South African history.  What came after that seemed like a little bit of a parliamentary let-down in the following weeks but it is important that what the Bishop had to say is further reported for the record.

Take that

Bishop Mpumlwana reminded all present, and particularly parliamentarians who claimed that the Church should not be “fiddling in politics”, that the same politicians had repeated the phrase, “So help me God” when taking office.

He said that the Church had no intention of ignoring the evil that was being perpetrated on the people of South Africa and asked all to note that the Constitution ended, “May God bless South Africa.”

He also said that systematic looting of resources had created a crisis for South Africans, particularly the poor. He called upon all parliamentarians to look to their consciences and assist with “the righteous cause of tracking down all those involved” in what was now an obvious state capture plan hatched during President Zuma’s watch in which the President himself, he said, was involved.

Cry, the beloved country

In a particularly moving address, he reminded all that SACC had come out in vocal support of the ANC during the apartheid years when President PW Botha was in power.   Now was the time to speak up again on the unbridled abuse of power by an ANC Cabinet and a President “who had lost his way on moral issues.”

The Church, he said, must intervene and as a result of the SACC “unburdening” process which had been conducted some months ago, he now knew that “mafia-style control” was being exercised by a political elite in Eskom, Transnet, Denel, and other government agencies.

Ignored

An attempt was in process to gain control over public funds destined particularly regarding rail, arms and nuclear projects, the last being a totally unnecessary burden placed upon the country, he said.    He concluded with an appeal to parliamentarians present to expose the crimes committed and “restore the dream that had built a rainbow nation admired the world over.”

It was gratifying to hear in following days that the Public Enterprises committee, under chairperson Zukiswa Rantho, had instituted an enquiry into Eskom’s accounts (and also Transnet and Denel it turned out) with legal opinion to be discussed in the in the next session of Parliament.

That time has now arrived and one hopes that a lot of explanations will emerge and a lot more untruths discovered in meetings with the Department of Public Enterprises (DPE) and its apparently confused but certainly compromised leader responsible, Minister, Lynne Brown.

Looking ahead

Parliament has now a busy schedule in August to catch up on lost time with delays incurred by staging a “secret ballot” on the no-confidence in President Zuma vote.

One issue will involve the passage of the contentious Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Amendment Bill, scheduled for a meeting with the Select Committee again towards the end of August; the Expropriation Bill; and the implementation of all Twin Peaks regulations – including those for the Financial Intelligence Centre to operate in terms of the “money-laundering” changes.

This last-named body is quoted as having handed over some 7,000 cases of suspicious money movements to SAPS/Hawks and Themba Godi, chair of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA), has made the public comment that any parliamentary finance joint meetings must see such matters on oversight resolved in the short term, preferably immediately.

Energy up and down

Minister of Energy, Mmamaloko Kubayi, was to be informing her Portfolio Committee on the can of worms opened with her suspension of the board the Central Energy Fund stated by her as being in connection with the suspicious sale of South Africa’s oil reserves held by the Strategic Fuel Fund.

Past Minister of Energy, Tina Joemat-Pettersson, seems to have possibly lied earlier to Parliament over the sale of these assets and she, in her subsequent silence, appears to be joining what is now a whole roomful of past ministers and director generals involved in the tangled web of deceit and manipulation at the edge of business and commerce  – some of it linked to Gupta e-mails, some just motivated by plain criminal greed.

But all Energy Portfolio Committee meetings on any subject have now been abruptly halted in the light of matters involving the possible suspension of the DG of Energy Policy and Planning, Omhi Aphane, (a long-time and experienced government staffer) on on an issue regarding of nuclear consultancy fees, according to the media.   It would appear a whistle blower is at work in DoE.

Minister Kubayi is certainly causing waves and many hope that the responsibility for Eskom is to be handed over to this Minister from the DPE, back to where it was originally rooted with all other energy resources.

Untouched as usual

The issue of debt relief legislation under the aegis of Chair Joan Fubbs of the Trade and Industry Committee will be important as will meetings on energy involving electricity, IPPs, nuclear and clearing up the PetroSA mess.   But first, this committee should sort out what is to be done with a draft Copyright Bill amending and updating anchor legislation, laws that have not been touched since 1976.

What DTI have so far come up with has legal experts in complete confusion since there appears no understanding by DTI in their draft of the difference between paintings, works of art and the high-tec world of data authorship which underwrites commerce and industry and on which depends a massive IT industry both here and mostly abroad.   Fortunately, with a person like Joan Fubbs in charge, basic misunderstandings such as this will get sorted out.  However, that such unintended consequences might have occurred worries many.

The various Finance Committees will meet for joint sessions for a number of tax and money Bills and amendment proposals and Posts and Telecommunications will hear its Department’s comments on public hearings, all regarding the ICT White Paper Policy.

Posted in cabinet, Communications, Electricity, Energy, Finance, economic, Fuel,oil,renewables, LinkedIn, Public utilities, Special Recent Posts, Trade & Industry0 Comments

Parliament embroiled in state capture

State capture emerges as a fact  …

An impression might have been given recently that parliamentary meetings only occur as and when e-NCA cherry picks a meeting for the evening news on the subject of state capture.   Therefore, one might think, every parliamentary meeting is either about the SABC or Eskom, Transnet or Denel.   Nothing could further from the truth.

Although the perverse facts behind the carefully planned act of state capture, involving Bell Pottinger, the Gupta family, their friends and associates, the actual crime in parliamentary terms  is non-disclosure to Parliament committed by public servants in the name of the same “prominent” persons, plus lying and falsification in terms of an oath taken to serve the nation.

Parliament, as a structure, has remained untarnished as the second pillar of separated powers. It is the players who have broken faith.

Hundreds of meetings

This is not to say that truth has always been exercised in Parliament in the past nor to claim that from the President down to backbenchers, all have been unaware that fake news has been fielded in parliamentary meetings.  But what is heartening is that the parliamentary process has been an enormous hurdle for the crooked to overcome.

In any one of the four sessions a year, each roughly equating in timelines to the terms of a school calendar, there are some three to four hundred committee meetings in the National Assembly and National Council of Provinces.

The subject matters covered represent the activities of forty seven government departments, literally hundreds of SOEs and all legislation which is tabled for the Statute Book must be debated.   All this is conducted with two audiences. It is a daunting programme.

Standing out

But soon it was noticeable that it was the meetings on SOEs, particularly those with their own boards and where tender processes were involved, that there was  a common theme emerging.   In each case it was a matter of strategic decisions not being taken to Parliament for approval; balance sheets not squaring up to meet the requirements of the Auditor General and the sudden arrival of newly appointed board members with little or no experience of matters under discussion.

It all stood out like a sore thumb.   Meanwhile, investigative journalism was to become a major force in parliamentary affairs.

In fact it was the parliamentary system that began slowly to reject  the manipulative processes being fielded.  Many an MP started demanding investigative reports from Cabinet ministers with cross-party support;  parliamentary rules were enforced in order to restrain the passage of  mischievous legislation and the pointing of fingers and the use of the kind of language that is only allowed under  parliamentary privilege contributed to the wearing down of the cover-up machine.

To the rescue

Eventually, between the AmaBhungane team and the BDFM team and others such as City Press, investigative journalism saved the day.   It could then be seen in writing that many of the issues so slowly being uncovered in Parliament, where nobody could pierce the web of intrigue and see the picture in its entirety, the full story was beginning to  take shape.

The extent of the theft is still not known and still emerging are new players in the list of “prominent persons”.  There is also still no apparent follow up by either SAPS or the Hawks, nor matters acted upon by the National Prosecuting Authority.

Worse, many do not expect this to happen – so cynical has the taxpayer become and so deep are the criminal waters.  But, as the saying goes, “every dog has its day”.

In the engine room

Despite the bad publicity for Parliament and the institution itself being under fire as to whether or not Parliament is a reliable democratic tool, a good number of MPs, especially opposition members, have been slaving away.     This is despite the appointed Secretary to Parliament, Gengezi Mgidlana, going on “special leave” whilst allegations into his possible violations of the PMFA are investigated.

Mgidlana was appointed as “CEO” of Parliament by the Presidency.     His jaunts overseas accompanied by his wife are the subject of investigation and have been the cause of strike action by parliamentary staff for nearly a year, whilst their own pay packets are frozen.

This matter seems to have mirrored the very issues being debated in Parliament.   Fortunately and most responsibly, the strikes have been orchestrated so as to have little major effect on the parliamentary schedule

Top heavy

Meanwhile, despite the top guy being a passenger in his own system, notices are going out on time, the parliamentary schedule is available every morning and the regular staff are hard at it. Now is the time in the parliamentary diary when the April budget vote is activated; money is made available and departmental programmes initiated.    Hearings have been conducted on many important pieces of legislation.

There is an extraordinary team in Cape Town which runs Parliament, especially researchers and secretaries to committees.

Train smash

Added to this, if it was not enough, a normally busy schedule was further complicated by urgent meetings on poor governance; tribunal findings; briefings for new members of Cabinet and the fact that to match President Zuma’s ever-expanding Cabinet with appropriate government departments there were some fifty portfolio and select committees all being served by a reduced Parliamentary staff.

The extent to which corruption is embedded into government’s spending programme makes parliamentary oversight a difficult and lengthy task, especially when under performance or poor governance matters are involved.   It all reflects the times we live in. In one day alone there  is not enough parliamentary time for a whole range of public servants to be “in the dock” to answer questions on matters involving millions of rand.

No court of law

To be fair, it is often as difficult for the respondent to get around to answering as it is for parliamentarians to get to the truth.  When you know the boss is on the take, how does one answer?   Issues tend to go around in circles.

Sifting out the rhetoric when the truth is shrouded in political intrigue is no easy task in Parliament especially when people are frightened of losing their jobs.

As the millions of rand stolen turn into billions of rand during the early part of 2017 and parliamentary committees were introduced to new “acting” directors in charge of government funding, TV cameras popped up in all corners of the parliamentary precinct.    One was constantly tripping over metres and metres of black cable to caravan control rooms enabling the public to watch the latest saga.

Camera shy

At the same time, Parliament is clearly now being side-lined by members of the Cabinet or avoided by Directors General and this maybe because of this new found public form of entertainment of spotting the good guys and shaming the captured ones.

In the past, the abuse of parliamentary rules by the incumbent President used to be considered as country-boy innocence but now the position has changed.     As any election approaches, parliamentary rhetoric always descends into low grade babble in the National Assembly but this time it is very different.  there is a clear disconnect between Parliament and the President.

With the addition of the now infamous “white minority capital” campaign to the debate, orchestrated ostensibly as we now know from London (as probably was the over employed expression of “radical economic transformation”) most of the forty-seven ministers and deputy ministers hammered out the same slogans in their budget vote speeches 9r at any given opportunity to speak, as if orchestrated.

Looking back: 2nd session

Going back to the beginning of 2016/7, Parliament has ploughed through the Nkandla mess; the SABC crisis; the Eskom governance exposures; the troubles at SAA; the failures and manipulations at Denel; crookery at Transnet; the PRASA scandals and in the losses at PetroSA, the latter being just sheer bad management it seems driven by political desire.

All of this has involved a lot of committee time far better spent on enlightening issues to assist the economy and create jobs. The “blame game” simply led to a jungle of write offs with no explanations but, suddenly, an ill-timed series of cabinet re-shuffles rattled a hundred cages.

D-day

Friday, March 31, 2017 will always be remembered following a period of stun grenades and parliamentary brawling in the House as President Zuma announced yet another set of choices to make up his Cabinet.  In committee meetings, in no less than eight portfolios, new or changed Ministers and Deputy Ministers appeared at meetings with little background.

The second session of the 2017 Parliament had this extraordinary start and on it ending, the arrival of the Gupta emails has now confirmed and named many involved in the whole issue of truthful depositions before Parliament.  No doubt a lot more shocks are yet to come.

The next session of Parliament will represent one of the arenas where the gladiatorial challenge will be played out on state capture together with the battle to avoid fusion in the separation of powers.

It is to be hoped that spring at the end of the third session will herald more than just another summer.

 

Previous articles on category subject
Zuma vs Parliament – ParlyReportSA
Parliament awaits to hear from Cabinet – ParlyReportSA
Parliament goes into Easter recess – ParlyReportSA

Posted in cabinet, Cabinet,Presidential, Energy, Finance, economic, LinkedIn, Mining, beneficiation, Public utilities, Security,police,defence, Special Recent Posts, Trade & Industry0 Comments

Border Management Authority around the corner

SARS role at border posts being clarified ….

In adopting the Border Management Authority (BMA) Bill, Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs agreed with a wording that at all future one-stop border posts, managed and administered by the envisaged agency and reporting to Department of Home Affairs (DHA), were to “facilitate” the collection of customs revenue and fines by SARS staff present.

However, on voting at the time of the meeting, Opposition members would not join in on the adoption of the Bill until the word “facilitate” was more clearly defined and the matter of how SARS would collect and staff a border post was resolved.

Haniff Hoosen, the DA’s Shadow Minister of Economic Development said that whilst they supported the Bill in general and its intentions, they also supported the view of National Treasury that the SARS value chain could not be put at risk until Treasury was satisfied on all points regarding their ability to collect duty on goods and how.

Keeping track

Most customs duty on goods arriving at border controls had already been paid in advance, parliamentarians were told; only 10% being physically collected at SA borders when goods were cleared.

However, with revenue targets very tight under current circumstances both SARS and Treasury have been adamant that it must be a SARS employee who collects any funds at border controls and the same to ensure that advance funds have indeed been paid into the SARS system.

The Bill, which enables the formation of the border authority itself, originally stated that it allowed for the “transfer, assignment and designation of law enforcement functions on the country’s borders and at points of entry to this agency.”

Long road

It was the broad nature of transferring the responsibility customs of collection from SARS to the agency that caused Treasury to block any further progress of the Bill through Parliament, much to the frustration of past Home Affairs Minister, Malusi Gigaba.   It has been two years since the Bill was first published for comment.

DHA have maintained throughout that their objective is to gain tighter control on immigration and improve trading and movement of goods internationally but Treasury has constantly insisted that customs monies and payments fall under their aegis. The relationships between custom duty paid on goods before arrival at a border to Reserve Bank and that which must be paid in passage, or from a bonded warehouse was not a typical DHA task, they said.

Breakthrough

It was eventually agreed by DHA that SARS officials must be taken aboard into the proposed structure and any duties or fines would go direct to SARS and not via the new agency to be created or DHA.

This was considered a major concession on the part of DHA in the light of their 5-year plan to create “one stop” border posts with common warehouses shared by any two countries at control points and run by one single agency. More efficient immigration and better policing at borders with improving passage of goods was their stated aim.

Already one pilot “one stop border post”, or OSBP, has been established by DHA at the main Mozambique border post by mixing SAPS, DHA and SARS functions, as previously reported.

To enable the current Bill, an MOU has been established with SAPS has allowed for the agency to run policing of SA borders in the future but Treasury subsequently baulked at the idea of a similar MOU with SARS regarding collection of customs dues and the ability to levy fines.
Bill adopted

At the last meeting of the relevant committee, Chairperson of the PC Committee on Home Affairs, Lemias Mashile (ANC) noted that in adopting the Bill by majority vote and not by total consensus, this meant the issue could be raised again in the National Council of Provinces when the Bill went for consensus by the NCOP.

Objectives

The Agency’s objectives stated in the Bill include the management of the movement of people crossing South African borders and putting in place “an enabling environment to boost legitimate trade.”

The Agency would also be empowered to co-ordinate activities with other relevant state bodies and will also set up an inter-ministerial committee to handle departmental cross-cutting issues, a border technical committee and an advisory committee, it was said.

Mozambique border

As far as the OSBP established at the Mozambique border was concerned, an original document of intention was signed in September 2007 by both countries. Consensus on all issues was reached between the two covering all the departments affected by cross-border matters.

Parliament was told at the time that the benefit of an OSBP was that goods would be inspected and cleared by the authorities of both countries with only one stop, which would encourage trade. In any country, he explained, there had to be two warehouses established, both bonded and state warehouses.

Bonded and State warehouses

Bonded warehouses which were privately managed and licensed subject to certain conditions, were to allow imported goods to be stored temporarily to defer the payment of customs duties.

Duties and taxes were suspended for an approved period – generally two years but these had to be paid before the goods entered the market or were exported, MPs were told. The licensee bore full responsibility for the duty and taxes payable on the goods.

State warehouses on the other hand, SARS said at the time, were managed by SARS for the safekeeping of uncleared, seized or abandoned goods. They provided a secure environment for the storage of goods in which the State had an interest. Counterfeit and dangerous or hazardous goods were moved to specialised warehouses.

Slow process

MPs noted that it had taken over six years for the Mozambique OSBP to be finalised. SARS said there were many ramifications at international law but added two discussions with Zimbabwe for the same idea had now taken place. It was hoped it would take less time to reach an agreement as lessons had been learnt with the Mozambican experience.

On evasion of and tax, SARS said in answer to a question that losses obviously occurred through customs avoidance and evasion, so it was consequently it was difficult to provide an overall figure on customs duty not being paid, as evasion was evasion. Smuggling of goods such as narcotics, or copper, which could only be quantified based on what had been seized.

The same applied to the Beit Bridge border with Zimbabwe where cigarette smuggling was of serious concern and through Botswana.

In general, it now seems that Home Affairs is to adopt an overall principle of what was referred to as having one set of common warehouses for one-stop declaration, search, VAT payment and vehicle movement with a SARS presence involving one common process for both countries subject to a final wording on the SARS issue before the Bill is submitted for signature.

Previous articles on category subject
Border Authority to get grip on immigration – ParlyReportSA
Mozambique One Stop Border Post almost there – ParlyReportSA

Posted in Finance, economic, Fuel,oil,renewables, Home Page Slider, Justice, constitutional, Mining, beneficiation, Public utilities, Security,police,defence, Trade & Industry, Transport0 Comments

Barnes prepares SAPO for SASSA

Modernising SAPO a culture change

….. sent to clients 27 February…. Stage by stage, Mark Barnes, Group Chief Executive Officer of South African Post Office (SAPO), appears to be reforming cultures and cleaning out “ten years of decay”, as he put it to the Portfolio Committee on Telecommunications and Postal Services.

“The years 2017 and 2018 could be our years”, he said, “especially if the Cabinet smiles on a SASSA deal. We have the reserves to do this thing.”

Introduced by Minister Siyabonga Cwele, Minister of Telecommunications and Postal Services, on the utility’s presentation on its corporate progress report and prospects for the third quarter, CEO Mark Barnes claimed that SAPO is becoming profitable; is well capitalised and the long-awaited corporatisation process is back on track with many of its labour problems sorted out.

Up and away

When introducing him to new members of the committee, the Minister said that for the last few years SAPO had been facing many challenges, but CEO Barnes, with a new Group Chief Financial Officer, “had put SAPO on the road to recovery”.

Because of its struggles with old systems of the past, digging it out of financial mismanagement and the need to pay urgently its creditors, SAPO was given a cash injection from the State.   The Minister said this was a good decision.  In 2017 SAPO was starting to focus on new businesses, with part of the strategic planning focused on the internet. One of the key goals was corporatisation, the Minister concluded.

New world

Mark Barnes described the position when he took over the reins to save the utility from “self-inflicted suicide” was far worse than was originally thought. He described a process whereby he had to send specialised “swat” teams into each major sorting complex starting with the large Johannesburg complex and eventually to other major towns and cities.

It took months, he said, to “clean up the mess and try to establish order out of chaos”, a good deal of which had been caused by the extended postal strike but mainly poor systems and management disinterest.

The delays caused by basic simple clean-up housekeeping held the initial  financial assessment back whilst the physical clean-up operations, after years of neglect were undertaken, he said.   The “swat” teams eventually established what SAPO assets had and where they were located.

First audit

He said, “I hope this is the last time I refer to ‘the past’ but we are having a mock audit in late January 2017 to establish remaining areas of wasteful expenditure, something that was not even thinkable of last year.”   He said, “The main issue is that SAPO has established an air of confidence and that confidence has reached a point where the rest of the journey becomes a worthwhile investment.”

In answer to criticism from Shadow Minister Cameron MacKenzie (DA) who said that “this SAPO report is being prefaced by the same remarks as before” and who added that it “was the same story of promises made last year but re-hashed”, CEO Barnes made a rebuttal. He retorted that “It is a mistake to take just a superficial look from the outside. Internal organization is being achieved and we haven’t had time to wave flags.”  He gave a long list of what had been achieved.

Heavyweights in saving banking

On savings, Barnes noted that SAPO serviced some 6 million customers with 2,486 outlets and reached out where no established banking services existed. “Compliance is now in place on banking procedures with the SA Reserve Bank  and we are seeking approval to establish the promised SA Postbank Limited with CIPC,  applications being submitted before July 1 2017.”

Postbank’s depositor funds were now standing at R4.9bn, having increased by 128m. Postbank itself had invested R7.3bn, he said.  Payables, Barnes also said, were reduced by R531m and the group met liquidity and solvency standards. The Post Office is backed by a R4.2bn Treasury guarantee.

 An overdraft of R270m had been repaid and R17m had been realized from the sale of pointless property holdings. Rental from existing tenants had increased and a more suitable and less expensive head office was now being targeted. He said he was always trying to get officials out of their old mindset about SAPO and to realize they were in business.

Major cut backs

On the labour front, there were 18,000 less staff this year, Barnes said, “brought about by a process of natural attrition” and it was hoped to transfer a large portion of a “hopelessly overstaffed head office” to operational duties.

If operational revenue failed to provide the necessary improved results in the short term, he said, then a retrenchment programme may have to be negotiated. “It will be tough but that’s how it is. The unions are aware of the long-term planning processes that have been undertaken and the alternatives understood”, he said.

SASSA a target

CEO Barnes expanded on the possibility of SAPO handling all payments of SASSA grants in the light of the volumes of “points of presence which amounted”, he repeated, “to approximately 5,000 counter points  Postbank is also to make an application to government to both handle all government mail business and a submission to SASSA in the very near future as current hiatus evolves.

He said that they had been talking to National Treasury on the savings to the national fiscus that could be gained. It was agreed that it would take much to achieve this possibility but was highly “do-able”.

He said Postbank had sufficient funds of its own to capitalize such a venture with IT networks and training should the security of such a contract be awarded. He commented that ordinary mail had dropped to 50% of original volumes due to the advent of electronic mail.

“This sea change in the way that the world now communicates had found the original management of SAPO completely at a loss on what to do”, he said, “and the decision had  apparently been to do nothing.”

Diversification from snail mail

The plan was now to diversify into courier services probably with a partner and to focus on selling Postbank services at package rates to corporate business.  

So far, four offer attempts had been made to “buy in” as partners, CEO Barnes said, all four of which had been found totally unacceptable.  There had been an obvious attempt in all cases just to acquire Postbank’s extensive national footprint as if a possible merger of interests was a fire sale, in each case contenders having given no consideration to the idea of what “was in it” as a revenue source to Postbank.   All propositions were  rejected out of hand.

Barnes told Parliamentarians, with the Minister still present at the portfolio committee meeting, that e-commerce in the form of public hubs or malls to the SADC area as well as locally will become a major revenue base for SAPO especially in lower income groups.

Generally, on all fronts, 22 significant projects had been approved, CEO Barnes said, with a further 9 in the project stage; 4 projects were in the procurement stage and others in testing and feasibility stages.

Transport more agile

As far as the transport book was concerned, SAPO  had decreased its annual expenditure   by 30% by exercising rationality and purchasing new vehicles cutting down on maintenance and repairs to old vehicles, Savings were also achieved by boosting efficiency with “a more agile logistics mind-set.”

The overall corporate plan forecast is mixed, Barnes said, and whilst revenue has declined significantly on a net basis, which was expected and planned for whilst SAPO re-grouped and cut out unprofitable exercises, it will still meet its corporate plan targets and “looked headed to be back into the black by a small amount in 2016/7”, said Barnes.

When it came to the balance sheet, he remarked SAPO still has an extremely large amount of debt which needs to be paid. However, it was important to note that the entity was now solvent and could pay. It also had liquidity in cash of its own available for development.

The big plan

He told the Committee that the key to SAPO’s future was the corporatisation of the Post Bank, with approval to establish the bank being granted by the SA Reserve Bank in July 2016. Preparations were currently underway to submit for registration in February 2017 as a South African Postbank Limited entity with CIPC.

The Postbank staff, operations and balance sheet will transfer from the Postbank division to the new entity after the incorporation process. The Postbank will allow for broader financial inclusion for all South Africans and it has the capacity to do this, he said.

SAPO, he said, had a relatively sophisticated E-commerce infrastructure with a large footprint which allowed it to facilitate speedy connections and deliveries. This, combined with the ports, vehicles and the access SAPO has at airports could make SAPO the E-commerce hub for Africa.

Ms M Shinn (DA) asked whether anything had been done address the security of IT systems and whether SAPO had the money to recruit and retain cyber-security skills. Cameron MacKenzie asked for more information on the SASSA bid.

Biometrics needed

Outsourcing was now underway and tenders being called for on biometrics, CEO Barnes said, which was the only route to stop fraud, duplicated payments to persons claiming or withdrawing twice under different names; to follow world trends and to get SAPO into the future to serve the nation as it should. Such was necessary if they were to handle the SASSA account which would be a great achievement and was the correct thing to do.

He said that partnerships in the IT sector were very likely to be sought as well as outsourcing, as SAPO, given its size and history, was not going to be able to keep up with the latest developments in the IT sector, nor would SAPO wish to be that expert, he said. Their focus was to get into courier work and banking, not IT. So, partnerships were going to be needed on the right terms.
He said that there had been half-expected problems with the data centre and disaster recovery this year as new equipment was being added to old. Repairs had been undertaken and there were negotiations underway to outsource the work of the data centre.

CEO Barnes said motor vehicles licence renewal processing was up by about R7m transactions in the year but this figure was coming from a very low base.

Money, money, money

In response to the question of when was SAPO likely to return to profitability, he re-confirmed that SAPO expects to start trading profitably during the 2018 financial year.

On complaints from the DA that SAPO still needed help from Treasury, Barnes explained that it was the nature of a turnaround situation not use cash in hand for the wrong things. Working money was one thing but depositor’s funds and reserves were a completely different issue, he said, and these were the security needed for developmental issues to get SAPO off the starting block.

He said whilst corporates have replaced SAPO with other service providers, they are a lot more expensive to hire. “SAPO is a low-cost producer and the only reason people turned to the alternatives is because SAPO became a dysfunctional low cost producer.”
“This is changing”, he said, “and we have to change the corporate customer mindset to show that we can do things again”.
Previous articles on category subject

SAPO – one big bungle at taxpayer’s cost – ParlyReportSA

Posted in Communications, Home Page Slider, LinkedIn, Public utilities, Trade & Industry0 Comments

Hide and seek over R14.5bn Ikhwezi loss

Facts on Ikhwezi loss held back

…sent to clients 12 Dec… In the first of several meetings of the Portfolio Committee on Energy regarding Central Energy Fund’s Ikhwezi Project, chairperson Fikile Majola has agreed with ANC MPs and Opposition members to reject the Department of Energy (DOE) report on the PetroSA impairment or write-off amounting to R14.5bn.  Continue Reading

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Madonsela: state capture and corruption…

says, Zuma involved in state capture.. 

editorial.. To those who know, the silence after a bomb goes off is quite uncanny. Like the state capture bomb. Even birdsongthuli-madonsela-2 ceases and the world seems to halt for a few seconds.  Then as things start up again, people seem to gabble. Everybody is rushing about. Life starts up but the noise seems incredible, if you can hear at all that is.   Following this comes the sickening realization that there might be a second bomb.   One seems helpless.

So it was when the Public Protector’s Report on State Capture was released.   Most had the feeling that to see in writing upon the frontispiece the words “state capture” was quite surreal.   Up until then it was rumour; an “alleged” idea; something that was always “strongly denied”; certainly, shady but in any case, difficult to prove… but it certainly shouldn’t happen in our backyard anyway.

Truth must out

thuli-encaThen the bombshell report was released.  The world seemed to halt in silence whilst its 355 pages were digested. Then came the voices, mostly loud and some quite vociferous.  Some demanded more proof; some demanded immediate retribution. Many asked for the President to step down, following which was a festival of interviews on e-NCA.    Meanwhile, in Parliament the corridors went quiet.   Like a phoney war.

Rewind

Whether there is a second bomb in the form of the Hawks and the NPA again charging Minister Pravin Gordhan is purely conjecture at this stage.   It is part of a process that Parliament is not privy to.   Parliamentarians must just watch these parties go about their business, unfortunately at the expense of a jittery investment market.

What we do know is that all judicial and parliamentary processes are painfully slow and this iscropped-sa-parliament-2.jpg as it must be.   Witness the complaints if a Bill is rushed or “hammered” through Parliament.  It rarely works when carried out at speed and the process is exposed for its faults.

The law may be an ass at times and very laborious but it is there to fight corruption.  To eventually win a case against such a difficult-to-prove crime may take time but it is devastatingly successful when achieved.

However, the name Gupta is not responsible for everything.   Some of unpleasant exposures, especially in the energy field, are the result of massive incompetence rather than a temptation of financial gain.

Taking time

In ParlyReportSA, now with clients, we detail four painfully long processes which eventually will result in what may not be liked by some but have been correctly subjected to the slow but democratic procedure of Parliament – the MPRDA Bill; the investigation into the tina-joemattIkwhezi R14.5bn loss; the sale of South Africa’s strategic oil reserves; and how the mini-budget of Minister Pravin Gordhan has evaded the claws of state capture.

Our constitutional, and therefore our parliamentary system which is integrated into it, is subject to a clause which states that the president of the country is the person who is elected as the president of the ruling party’s National Executive.    This outcome only changes if that person is found guilty of breaking the law or his and her oath of office. For this outcome to be proven can take much time.

Patience a virtue

Gratifyingly also, amongst many outstanding court procedures underway, the arduous parliamentary and legislative process to ensure a recalcitrant President gets around to signing the FICA Bill, is underway.

His signature is needed in order that the countrzuma1y can meet international banking obligations and comply with money-laundering disclosure requirements. The fact that the President has not signed it, as was put before him by Parliament and has provided no reason for the apparent lack of inertia to do so, speaks volumes.  Probably a case for personal privacy will be tabled by his defence team, if he gets to need one.

Delaying tactics

Either the President in this instance will waste taxpayer’s money with a long drawn out case or be advised to withdraw, as has been his practice up until now, by acceding at the last minute and will have signed or be told to.

zwaneHe and his associates know that this Bill is a critical tool in the fight against illegal transfers of funds by “prominent persons”.  Minister Zwane’s fight with the banking sector is an unnecessary sideshow connected to this process. More becomes evident in the media , day by day, of this gentleman’s shady dealings.

Dark forces

Another fight calling for patience and now being unearthed is the level of corruption within intelligence services, Hawks and the NPA.  Hopefully, this is not as deep as the relationship that Robert Mugabe had with Nicolae Ceaușescu of Hungary, based on which he built his CIO and followed the advice gained from his training with Nangking Military Academy.

hawks logoHopefully also, with the NPA, Hawks and other major undercover government departments, only such matters as  graft involving as rhino trade and state capture bribes are the tools of trade involved and the aim remains simply self-enrichment.

Hope springs

The “goodies” in South Africa have much to undertake in order to beat the “baddies”, not helped by senior ANC officials not getting off the fence for fear of being demoted on the party list and losing their pensions.    All the same, there are so many good men and women speaking out at the moment from all spheres of political and business life,  the ANC in particular,  that “the force” would appear unstoppable.

Getting Parliament back into control and equal to the Cabinet will be a long process andparliament mandela statue calling for extreme patience, as manifested by our greatest President who demonstrated such incredible patience over many years in his long walk to freedom.

Previous articles on category subject

FIC Bill hold up goes to roots of corruption – ParlyReportSA

Parliament: National Assembly traffic jam – ParlyReportSA

Red tape worries with FIC Bill – ParlyReportSA

Anti-Corruption Unit overwhelmed – ParlyReportSA

 

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NRCS hammered over port delays

NRCS admits failure to meet LOA targets

…..sent to clients 16 Oct…...The National Regulator for Compulsory Specificationsasogan-moodley (NRCS), responsible for the issuance of letters of authority (LRAs) to complete import certification of imports in respect of critical safety regulations, came under intensive fire in Parliament from MPs across all party lines.

This included a warning from Trade and Industry Portfolio Committee Chairperson, Joan Fubbs, that the NRCS failure to meet its annual targets, particularly bearing in mind such targets were set by themselves, was not acceptable.

Chair Fubbs told CEO Asogan Moodley of NRCS his agency was “a blot on the otherwise excellent annual performance of the Department of Trade Industry (DTI)”, NRCS being the only one of the seventeen DTI entities to receive a qualified annual report from the Auditor General’s office for the past year.

Durban is problem area

sars-warehouse-durbNRCS has a mandate to provide LOAs for clearing goods for sale or service in various categories of goods imported into South Africa, with the port of entry of Durban providing most of the problems in supplying the necessary LOAs. Chair Fubbs said that the poor performance already shown in the first quarter of the current financial year did not auger well for any change in the immediate future. This cannot be the case, she warned.

NRCS divides imports into the main categories of automotive including all components; chemicals, materials and mechanicals; electro-technical including IT and electronic appliances and food in the form of fishery products, canned meat and processed meat. NRCS also ensures standards on building supplies and checks calibration and checks of weights and measuring equipment supplies, including gaming equipment.

Massive backlogs

CEO Moodley told parliamentarians that outstanding LOAs over the recognised maximum period of 120 days were, at worst, 191 days – where 179 consignments were involved. In all some 1,500 consignments exceeded 120 days across all imports at various ports of entry, he said. The worst failures to supply import LOAs were in respect of electrical goods, IT appliances, vehicles and automotive parts.

All imports were checked on a “risk-based approach” and dived into low-risk, medium-risk andcargo-vessels-durban high-risk as far as consumers were concerned. Target turnaround time, after inspection and issue of relative LOAs, was respectively 75 calendar days for low-risk, 90 calendar days for medium-risk and 120 calendar days for high-risk.

Asogan Moodley emphasised that a major problem had been that DTI had changed working days into calendar days which had overtime connotations for NRCS with already limited staffing levels.

The whole truth

Chair Fubbs queried the number of days that cargo was outstanding supplied by NRCS in their annual report, stating that she was aware that the situation was far worse that indicated by NRCS in their presentation. In fact, a number of consignments needed by commerce and industry has been sitting in bond for nearly a year, she said. This was not acceptable, she warned.

warehouseCEO Moodley named his problems in clearing goods as being as being a result of short staffing of expert examiners, who were difficult to find – although some personnel were being trained or re-trained to meet technological changes. Compounding the problem, he said, was the necessity to update the entire NRCS IT ability, which was budgeted for but which had not yet been completed.

He also complained that the volumes of incoming imports and the technical advances represented almost monthly in imported goods were not exponentially related to the growth of NRCS, its skills base and the level of monitoring expertise, particularly at major ports.

IT gear just standing

In respect of the electro-technical category, he said that whilst inspections were up 11% transnet-container-terminalagainst target, the processing of LOAs within the financial year stood at 68% lower than the target for 120 days turnaround. In other instances, inspections carried out at source or at retail level were also short on target level but CEO Moodley assured the Committee that the NRCS had embarked upon a process of implementing a new system of automation and modernisation to improve performance.

He said it would take 18 months to complete such a programme at a total cost of R50m.
Major problems encountered were that certificates of origin supplied by importers which differed when the same goods were subsequently imported resulting in the need for fresh LOAs and that all processes at present were manual which increased load.    He called for the regulations to be changed so that more categories were allowed for so that very low risk products could be handled specifically on a quicker turn-around basis.

Opposition members said that they could not see how this would improve the situation since the problem appeared to be an inability to handle any volumes with untrained staff, whether low risk or high risk.    MPs noted that import bottlenecks were a financial threat to businesses and industry who were reliant on such imports and failure by DTI in this regard led to job losses and low growth.

Technical advances not in tune                nrcs-logo                                    

CEO Moodley and his team of departmental heads went to great lengths to explain the technical variations in international goods and imports coming from various countries that were either substandard or which had wrong documentation. He said that the failure to provide standards for treated timber and safety footwear, for example, had caused a backlog and such issues as non or sub-standard tyres on vehicles had slowed things down in the automotive sector.

He complained that the lack of consistency in supplied products and the constant attempts to short-circuit the system by importers accounted for much of the delay in turnaround.

Where it matters

CEO Moodley said that the electro-technical industries represented an area where most product failures occurred.  He added that the introduction of LED technology had compounded the checks for accuracy and reliability and such issues as compatibility of electrical goods, in many cases portable generators and white goods, had a poor record of power specification labeling and consequent safety in South Africa.

This was a growing problem with many countries who worked to different standards, various plugging methods and a different disclosure ethic.

Warning

durban-port-bigIn conclusion, when the debate was wound up, the Committee noted that a complete change of direction in the methods and ability of NRCS to meet its targets had to be found and that future presentations by NRCS reflecting such dismal results would not be tolerated.

As a result of a number of critical comments from MPs across party lines, the backlog of 1,650 LOAs over 120 days would be tackled, regulator Moodley promised, “by October” but stated this as being with the use of “new inspectors”.

Also, in an effort to speed up the search for unsafe or non-compliant products, there would be no need to obtain a new LOA for additional imports of a product where one had been additionally granted, he said. However, NRCS reserved the right to carry out spot checks.

Consequences

From a subsequent follow-up report in Business Day, it was learnt that DTI had confirmed the resignation of CEO Asogan Moodley and that such a move “had been a decision of Mr Moodley himself”. Trade and Industry Minister, Rob Davies, said he had instructed DTI’s DG, Lionel October, “to engage with NRCS to ensure they meet their targets”.

DTI said that Minister Davies “simply expects management and labour of DTI entities to meet their targets”, referring specifically to LOA targets in the case of NRCS.
Previous articles on category subject
Customs Duty Bill cuts out inland ports – ParlyReportSA
Border Authority to get grip on immigration – ParlyReportSA
Tax law changes after mid-year budget – ParlyReportSA
New Customs Duty Bill opposed by BUSA – ParlyReportSA

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Anti Corruption Unit overwhelmed

Focus on top down elements of patronage 

….editorial….As Parliament went into short recess, the Anti-Corruptionhawks-2
Unit, the combined team made up of SARS, Hawks, the National Prosecuting Authority and Justice Department, divulged that some 400 cases of public service corruption have been “successfully prosecuted since 2014”.

Out of hand

To have that number of public service thieves arrested is no small number but there is a worrying afterthought.   One wonders how many Anti Corruption Unit cases have been dropped or unsuccessfully prosecuted, given the fact such icebergcases are difficult to prove and there is often poor performance of by investigation teams. Like an iceberg, probably only one seventh of corruption in the public service is apparent.

sars logoCases currently under investigation in both the public and private sectors were given as 77, now 78 since Tom Moyane, head of SARS and member of the Anti Corruption Unit itself, at the time admitted to the Committee that he had not spoken to the Hawks about his second in command, Jonas Makwakwa.

Laundry list

The question by MPs was about the mysterious R1,2m deposited into Makwakwa’s private banking account.  According to reports it appears Moyane has subsequently rectified the situation and reported the event.  So yet another enquiry must start, which will only exacerbate the relationship problem between Moyane and the Minister of Finance, Gordhan Pravin.

Added to these national events in Parliament is the fact that corruption investigation remains particularly problematic at provincial and local government levels where it can go on undetected. The story emerging from the Tshwane Municipality is a case in point. The National Council of Provinces has no part to play in such matters.

Top down problem

Over the last few weeks, events in the parliamentary precinct have dominated the domestic media and consequently there is no need to repeat what is patently obvious.  South Africa clearly faces a leadership problem as far as financial governance and policy initiatives are concerned.

hawks logo
Doubt has placed, in the media in main, on the leadership integrity of the Hawks, NPA and, to some extent, with the Anti Corruption Unit inasmuch as their relationship with the President is concerned. A weary public waits for the next story of public service patronage.

Public service heads appear at times uncomfortable when they are reporting to Parliament and seem to be looking over their shoulder at times to see if what they have done or said is politically correct. Troubling is the fact that regulatory bodies are at odds with the ministries that founded them.

Bottomless pits

Although progress has been made on the national level in developing legalmoyane frameworks with provisions and regulations to address theft of public funds, such as the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act and the Public Finance Management Act (PMFA), the good guys are still behind in the race to catch the bad guys.   A sad conviction rate of 28% on cases brought before the court by the Assets Forfeiture Unit overall was quoted to the Standing Committee.

Poor leadership

On the same subject, the surprising failure by the President to sign into law the Financial Intelligence Centre Bill to fight money laundering in terms of international prudential agreements has represented a further setback. Hopefully this is only temporary since the country needs to join up the dots to encircle organised corrupt financial activity.

Worse, some government SOEs appear to conducting their own affairs without approval by Treasury. Cabinet members are involved. Witness the extraordinary offer made by the Central Energy Fund, reported in the media, to Chevron for its refinery in Cape Town and downstream activities in the form of 850 fuel outlets, presumably backed by the funds emanating from the sale of the Strategic Fuel Fund (SFF) reserves unauthorised by Treasury.

Upstream mayhem

Tesliso MaqubelaDDG Tseliso Maqubela of Department of Energy has now told the media that SFF sold the 10 million barrels of crude in storage in December at rock bottom price of $28 a barrel to a unit of Glencore, Vitol and a company called Taleveras. The condition of the sale was apparently, Maqubela said, “that the oil (will) not be exported and so the government considered it remaining as part of its strategic reserve stockpile.”

Shadow Minister of Energy, Pieter Van Dalen MP, citing Business Day, said the sale has been connected with Thebe Investment Corporation – “the ANC linked investment arm”, he added.   Vitol is the company that has allegedly bought the fuel stock and which owns Burgan Cape Terminals next to Chevron, the deal being linked by Van Dalen with Thebe for the building of its new storage tanks. Burger had just been awarded a 20-year lease by Transnet for land needed.

cape-town-harbourChevron brought to Parliament its case against Burger saying it was improper to build a new tank terminal next to its refinery for Burger to store oil for trading whilst they had no Transnet pipeline to Gauteng as did others from Durban but the chair of the portfolio committee accused Chevron of monopolistic behaviour. Subsequently the complaint was rejected. It was shortly after that Chevron announced its intention to sell its refinery.

Twisting path

Whether the Minister of Energy, Tina Joemat-Pettersson knew all of this when she appeared before the Portfolio Committee of Committee on Energy,tina-joematt her attendance covered in this report, is a moot point.   If she did know something, she is culpable in that she withheld the information, both from Parliament and possibly Treasury.

Alternatively, if she didn’t know that an offer was made to buy Chevron and that SFF had sold the state’s oil fund’s reserves to Swiss giant Vitol, possibly involving Thebe Investments, she should resign immediately as an incompetent.  Where the R4.4bn odd involved in the sale by SFF has landed up is not clear and when the oil will leave SFF’s Saldanha terminal and move to Burger in Cape Town is also not clear.

Clearly, in our view, this has been a major transaction known about at Cabinet level and the DA has called for an urgent enquiry. This will presumably bring the Asset Forfeitures Unit’s number of cases under investigation up to 79.   And so it goes on.  Tegeta and Eskom included.

Nothing but the truth

One senses a continuing cover up by government departments in reporting to Parliament for fear of upsetting any Minister’s apple cart, whereas Parliament should be a refuge of openness, accountability and public oversight on state activities and act as an arbiter to represent the people of South Africa.

vincent-smithIn the darkness, we saw a flash of light and a refreshing change when ANC MP, Vincent Smith, in grilling the Hawks as part of the Anti Corruption Unit interview, reminded them fiercely “This Is Parliament. If you cannot speak the truth, then do not speak at all.”  Whilst that remark may encapsulate the current problem, it may be also the cause of some Ministers and government officials choosing not to speak at all.

Legal jungles

Concurrent with the number of judicial enquiries into strange contracts, bad senior appointments, misuse of privileges and a litany of unaccountable expenditure without proper approval, what also has increased is the statement used by many when speaking to Parliament, including ministers, that the full facts cannot be given “because the matter is sub-judice”.

The number of matters that are sub-judice would not be so great if powers were given back the Treasury to re-assume its proper place in the parliamentary process.  Expenditure, if not approved by Treasury, would never see the light of day.

In conclusion

parliament 6Bad governance and corruption is the fodder that feeds the right wing anger sweeping the world and creates the spectacle that we see almost daily in our National Assembly, the creation of which institution is supposed to be one of the three pillars supporting the Constitution.

Previous articles on category subject

 Parliament, ConCourt and Business – ParlyReportSA

Parliament and the investment climate – ParlyReportSA

Anti-corruption law is watered down, say critics – ParlyReportSA

Nkandla vs NDP: the argument rages – ParlyReportSA

Parliament closes on sour note – ParlyReportSA

 

 

 

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Broadband allocation could involve SABC

ICT White Paper to set up broadband allocation…

An Integrated ICT White Paper involving broadband allocation is in its final stages of preparation involvingSiyabonga Cweley consultation with various parties, said Telecommunications and Postal Services Minister, Siyabonga Cwele, during his Budget vote speech to Parliament.  This matter is a long outstanding issue in the industry and delays are imperiling broadband development.

What has concerned Opposition members during earlier parliamentary meetings on the subject was the remark by the Minister that “Some of the delay has been the delay to allow the Department of Communications to make a contribution to the decision regarding allocation across the spectrum and how this would be applied.”

This remark must be seen in the light of the fact that the two ministries and departments were split some five years ago and the conclusion is that Minister Faith Muthambi and the SABC under it’s new and controversial head of broadcasting, Hlaudi Motsoeneng, has been drawn into the equation.

Minister Cwele also said at the time that also added that his Ministry was working with Treasury to establish a “funding model” for the broadband “roll out”, estimated at R67bn.

Spectrum policy included

In his budget speech, Minister Cwele re-affirmed that the White Paper would be supported by a new Spectrum Policy Paper in order to provide for “open or public access networks and opening up the use of high demand broadband spectrum for use by all licensees while adequately compensating those who invest in infrastructure.   All South Africans must benefit from participation in the digital society, he said.                                  ‘

Until now, there have been a number of unfortunate reasons for the holdup in broadband which have been given by government in parliamentary meetings to date. With both DTPS and Minister Cwele present at the most recent parliamentary meeting before Parliament with ICASA as the regulatory body also  present, it became quite evident  that the two were at loggerheads on the manner and method of spectrum allocation.

Different signals

Minister Cwele, during the portfolio meeting, prioritised his department’s requirement as being the need to

transform the sector to ensure meaningful Black participation when allocation takes place. ICASA meanwhile placed far less emphasis on this, preferring an allocation on an “auction” basis style whereby bidders not only name their price but declared their additional contributions to Black upliftment and general social and community development programmes, knowing this would more likely attract outside investors.

Dr. Cwele admitted at the time that “broadband allocation is perhaps the biggest regulatory bottleneck in the South African deployment of wireless technologies at the moment.”

Minister says industry “monopolistic”

In his subsequent budget vote speech he notably remarked, “Radical supply side interventions will reduce barriers to investors by moving away  from monopolistic infrastructure allowing for competition in opening access tobroadband broadband networks”.

The Minister told MPs in his speech that the White Paper will provide for “a simplified, streamlined and nationally coordinated framework to accelerate the use of networks meaning, he said, a capability to “drastically reduce the costs to operators and, down the line, to consumers.”

This issue has been plaguing the South Africa consumer market for a number of years, he added, and it was widely accepted that with the growth of cell phone usage by all income groups, he said, the present pricing cannot continue at the expense of ordinary households.

Domestic WiFi roaming

Separately, private sector operators such as Cisco have said that any such move will present mobile operators intelecommunications South Africa with a tremendous opportunity to optimize capital and operational expenditures and improve user experience.

From discussion after the Minister had spoken, it emerged also from MPs that the more mobile data offloaded makes viable alternative to mobile broadband users in crowded locations such as shopping malls where spectrum availability for present mobile access to networks is limited.   In addition, it was noted that a bigger data offload will give operators the opportunity to reduce data costs, allowing them to accelerate adoption of competitive market share opportunities. The Minister made no comment on this and it was clear that the BEE component was a ministry priority.

Crosscutting in government

HlengiweMkhizeThe Deputy Minister of Telecommunications and Posts, Hlengiwe Mkhize, followed up the Minister in her address to the committee by focusing on “discussions taking place with the labour, public service and administration and higher education and training departments to boost ICT skills.”    She also mentioned that the White Paper would map out some of the internet connectivity plans for the rural economy to stimulate growth and opportunities.

In response to both Minister’s briefings, the following day in debate Opposition members said as far as the public service use of broadband was concerned in all aspects of communications, health and education, “it was time for the discussions to stop withe other departments and for the roll out to begin.”

 MPs noted the comment that out of 46 African countries surveyed, the cheapest mobile prepaid product in South Africa is still nearly 7.5 times more expensive than the African continent’s cheapest similar product.   The South African government is one of the smallest users of broadband facilities in the world, according to Cape Town based Research ICT Africa.

 Previous articles on category subject  

Broadband allocation on its way – ParlyReportSA

Govt and Nersa differ on broadband – ParlyReportSA

Overhaul of broadband policy underway – ParlyReportSA

Parliament gets final dates for digital TV – ParlyReportSA

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PIC comes under pressure to disclose

Unlisted investments of PIC queried….

matjilaWhen asked for information on how the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) had invested its funds, Dr  Daniel Matjila, Chief Executive Officer, told parliamentarians that the most he could do, even with ‘listed’ investments, was to give only names. Any terms and condition of any investment agreement could not be made public. On ‘unlisted’ investments, he held back completely.

He was then formally asked by David Maynier (DA) if the PIC had invested, directly or indirectly, any funds in any Gupta-owned enterprise. He was also asked for details of any financial implications upon the Government Employee Pension Fund (GEPF) and other pension fund assets resulting from the dismissal by the President of former Finance Minister Nene.

Confidentiality

Dr Matjila responded that the fund “could not cross the line of disclosing private information” and the members ofPIC logo.2 the Standing Committee on Finance, before whom he was appearing “should not read into his statements any insinuation that the PIC was protecting information.” He noted that he was totally aware of the fact that the PIC was under investigation for passing funds to the ANC and any such idea “was totally false”.

As far as funds to any Gupta owned business was concerned, Dr Matjila replied that the organisation stood by its earlier answers to the media that it had not invested directly in any Gupta owned enterprise. Following this remark, ANC MPs stood by Dr Matjila and told Opposition members that the PIC could not become “entangled” in such questions which were veiled with gossip and insinuation. It was the word “directly” used by Dr Matjila that caused the question.

Sub-judice

yunus carrimThis point was emphasised by Yunus Carrim, Chairman of the Committee, that most of the questions that were concerning Mr David Maynier should only be dealt with after the investigation of the possibility of ANC funding by the PIC had completed its course. He said that Dr Matjila was bound by circumstances to say nothing.

Present at the standing committee meeting was Deputy Minister of Finance, Mcebisi Jonas, who said the reporting process of h a pension fund to the committee should not get side-tracked with politically motivated questions. Maynier had asked this time about the possibility of “indirect” investments by PIC of any Gupta businesses.

On the issue of the effect of the ‘9/12 issue’, as referred to by Dr Matjila when Nhlanhla Nene was fired, he reported that the impact of this event had caused “significant losses” to the PIC portfolio. The GEPF lost R95bn, the Unemployment Insurance Fund lost R7bn and the Compensation Fund had lost R3bn – all managed by PIC and the event had been most worrying.

However, he said that the performance of all the funds had been subsequently excellent in the sense that recovery was achieved quite quickly – in fact “the recovery represented more than all the PIC funds lost within those two days of crisis.”

Information withheld

David Maynier (DA) remarked that funding was still shrouded in mystery and that he was “extremelydavid maynier uncomfortable” that the PIC would give no information at all on the “unlisted” investments of PIC.

Reporting generally, Dr Matjila said the fund had benchmarked itself and its operations compared favourably with “top private sector investment companies”. The GEP Fund “had shown over five years a 14.3% interest factor compared, he said, to a global median of 9.9% and a local investor median of 10.1%.” It had invested approximately R33.9bn in numerous portfolios aimed to drive transformation and create jobs, he said.

He told parliamentarians that the PIC “had invested approximately R33.9bn in numerous portfolios aimed to drive transformation and create jobs.” He said any risk taking was carefully managed and remained on the conservative side. Furthermore, he assured MPs that PIC did not take any risk that could not be “managed”.

Listed investments growing

Dr Matjila said that for all investments, the total allocation was now R400bn and “partners were always sought that would make positive returns”. ‘Listed’ investments in the last five years had grown from R495bn to R892bn recording a growth factor of 12.5% per annum.

vodacom logoThe PIC always held to principle, he said, that there was always a need for BEE compliant businesses to be considered so that it attracted a portion of government expenditure. ‘Unlisted’ investments, nevertheless, had large share of the market holdings, he said, with roughly R55 billion allocated to this form of investment. The total allocation for PIC investments, including GEPF and UIF, was approximately R400bn.

On investment policy, Dr Matjila said that his team liked to look at partnering with other stakeholders that added value and knowledge to make sure that maximum benefits and input from any arrangement were received.

Downstream SMME outlets

On SMME development, Dr Matjila said that PIC was “in discussion with groups such as Spar and Woolworths to ensure that small business was represented in their current growth patterns.” He said it would seem important for PIC to participate further in the Barclays Africa “sell down”. PIC, he noted, had invested in many international and local companies with assets within South Africa “in order to drive economic growth and increase job creation.”

Dr Matjila turned finally to ‘unlisted’ investments and said PIC had a slate of roughly R55bn to work from. Such investments were usually international, he said, and were not necessarily BEE compliant. David Maynier (DA) asked whether the GEP Fund management was “comfortable with the fact that a confidentiality clause existed on so many investments and the fact that disclosure to Parliament was denied.” Some ANC members also mentioned disquiet on this issue. Maynier said he intended to pursue the issue of non-disclosure of “unlisted” investments further.

Previous articles on category subject
Retirement savings subject of treasury probe – ParlyReport
Treasury calls for “Twin Peak System” with two financial bills – ParlyReportSA

 

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SAPO – one big bungle at taxpayer’s cost

Total management failure…..

The horror story of the uncontrolled mess in the South African Post Office (SAPO) and how this state entity,
without forSAPOmal management control to speak of and facing imminent danger of structural collapse, was reported upon in Parliament recently

The route to near bankruptcy was recounted to the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA) by current SAPO board chairperson, Mr Simo Lushaba, who had been summoned to explain the crisis at SAPO, accompanied by the new CEO of the Post Office, recently appointed Mark Barnes.  Comments were added by Minister of Posts and Telecommunications, Siyabonga Cwele.

Previously Mark Barnes had tried to respond to the call by SCOPA to report but the meeting had to be abandoned, incurring the ire of the Committee, since it is the chairman of the board of the state entity in question, in this case Simo Lushaba, who can only respond to a SCOPA call as the nominated person in terms of parliamentary procedure was unavailable.

Rulings are clear on this, as is the Public Finance Management Act (PMFA) in the case of SOEs.

Poor management

Immediately, it became evident in the meeting that whilst the worst period of poor management in SAPO had occurred in the last two years culminating in four strikes in 2015, although not necessarily connected issues, the common factor was a collapsing management hierarchy over a number of years beforehand.

Senior officials, it appears, throughout the organisation were totally out of touch with employees and no overarchingSimo Lushaba managerial directives were passed according to any form of plan. The disastrous current situation was a culmination of “systemic mismanagement over a long period of time”, said Lushaba.

The SAPO board chairperson said SAPO did not have the cash available to continue with legal disciplinary proceedings against the former CEO and CFO, both persons having received a total of R5.7m in salaries whilst suspended for a year, during which it was alleged that they were responsible for the chaos when in control of SAPO.

The SAPO board had decided to cut its losses and halt the legal proceedings with regard to the legal case. “It was not an ideal outcome but unfortunately it was just taking too long, plus we did not have the money to follow the case through”, said Lushaba.

Ship with no rudder

When asked for sum up comments by MPs of the SCOPA committee towards the end of the meeting, new CEO Barnes said that SAPO, as an entity, was currently suffering a loss of about R125m a month. He told sapo queuesparliamentarians that twenty-five post offices had been closed down, some of them because of rent arrears.

Despite a further allocation of R650m in terms of the last Budget allocation, “this came nowhere near to eliminating the mountain of debt which amounted to more than R800m by March 2016”, he said.

With a balance sheet such as this, he said, “a government guarantee was no longer sufficient to persuade banks to lend SAPO money, despite Treasury agreeing to extend on its repayment loan date.” An immediate cash injection was the only route, he said, and that was on its way as agreed to by the Minister of Finance and Treasury. “This means that SAPO can pay its some of its creditors within the next few days”, he said.

Compromising with creditors

“The very existence of SAPO under threat on a daily basis is evident as creditors understandably want simple proof of future income which is extraordinary for a state entity”, Barnes said.

“Every month the delay in paying creditors has made it increasingly difficult to continue operations and negotiate commercial contracts on favourable terms since there is a total lack of trust on the part of suppliers.”

CEO Barnes said there was now a plan in place to turn around the organisation, with an estimated loss of R1.5bnsapo3 expected for the current year, adding to the R1.2bn loss for R2014/5. By the end of 2017/8 there could be a small gain reflected on the balance sheets. But the plan still hangs in the balance awaiting decisions from banks, he said at the time.

He also said he was “disturbed by the fact the banking sector did not automatically accept government guarantees”. This fact was slowing the downturn around and the plan was losing momentum. He suggested that the state should take another view on their relationships with the banks and enormous sums of cash they receive from the state to pay public servants.

SAPO was already three months behind in its strategy to achieve future successful financial outcomes whilst the banks made up their minds and Treasury despatched the cash on a painfully slow basis, he noted.

Oligarchy over

He stated that never again should SAPO ever be “a one man one show business.” It could indeed be rescued, he said, and made profitable in the next three years but no sooner and it could become a valuable asset in five years.”

This could be achieved by doing vigorous work to identify every source of loss, he said. The memory of the postal strike was also very evident with all speakers, still not resolved in entirety.

Mark Barnes“The Public Finance Management Act is the challenge”, CEO Barnes noted. “The competitors of SAPO make decisions in three to six minutes whilst SAPO made decisions in three to six months.” It was clear he included Treasury in this remark.

He stressed that PostBank was unaffected by SAPO’s trading deficit since it was an entirely separate enterprise holding some R7.3bn in cash in the form of savings. In this area lay the future, CEO Barnes said, adding that SAPO had to turn from a postal operation to a faster and cheaper package/courier service for the citizens of South Africa.

Minister weighs in

Minister Cwele added to this comment when he noted that reckless trading decisions had been made when globally mail volumes were going down. There were far too many post offices in unprofitable areas paying enormous rentals to developers all resulting from the days when it was “the hype to have a post office in every major shopping centre.” This was bad management and bad thinking at the time, the Minister said.

cweleHe pointed out that Parliament had passed the Post Bank Act and the PostBank could eventually work as a limited savings banker and bank operator in post offices, especially in unreachable areas where the private sector did not wish to venture, if not in small towns as well.

The Minister said that at some stage strategic decisions needed to be taken on such issues and also such matters as government officials being paid through PostBank. The Minister echoed the view that post offices should become competitive, low cost, courier service providers as well as handling smaller volumes of mail now being experienced and be run individually on a profit basis.

Where the money is

A recent survey had been conducted of post offices running at a loss and those most profitable, the Minister said. The most profitable were in the old Transkei area in the Eastern Cape and the one post office running at the biggest loss was the Sandton Post Office, he concluded.

Chairman Lushaba explained that the service called PostBank was a division of the post office. There was a risk osapo7f talking of the organization as a whole. For example, the disaster recovery IT programme of PostBank had worked well but the IT problems of post offices itself were still causing high risk. For example, he said, the entire post office backup system was on its own system and there was no separate system to switch to. He wondered how such elementary mistakes had been made.

Bad record

During the debate on a litany of irresponsible financial decisions, absent financial systems and even the lack of a working asset register, it emerged after a full day of reporting and cross questioning by MPs that a call had to besapo5 made for upgrading of IT and general management skills, Treasury officials present took a dim view on the future unless this was done, they said.   The question of basic training was also seen as an impediment as was the lack of broadband facilities to improve the IT position.

SCOPA demanded, as a committee, that the previous CFO and CEO be brought to book since, besides matters involving the rejection of the auditor general to undertake an audit; the inability to produce a balance sheet and ignorance of the Public Finance Management Act in all matters of procurement, criminal charges should be investigated as a matter of course and with speed.

Previous articles on category subject

Lack of skills hampering broadband rollout – ParlyReportSA

The big SA cabinet crunch – ParlyReportSA

Broadband allocation on its way – ParlyReportSA

Posted in Communications, Facebook and Twitter, Home Page Slider, LinkedIn, Public utilities, Trade & Industry0 Comments

Parliament: National Assembly traffic jam

editorial…….

Massive public service vs National Assembly…..

During the last few weeks, the sheer volume of meetings in the National Assembly of Parliament to consider eachnational assembly members government departmental budget vote and each of the departmental five-year strategic plans has been overwhelming. Little of legislative consequence emerges during such a period each year, other than the tabling of technocrat Bills rather than important policy making legislation.

Sadly to say, not too much attention is paid by the media to any of these meetings. Big plans, impressive targets, promises to overhaul this, that and the other. Most working journalists of experience have seen it all before and mostly they try to get statements on issues from either the Minister or Deputy Minister beforehand.

Time is of the essence for all. But why is this period of the parliamentary diary so extraordinarily busy?

Traffic jam in Parliament

There is unfortunately a simple answer. With too many people trying to do too much in limited government hours, the resulting traffic jam results from the fact that South Africa has probably one of the largest government structures per head of population in the world, if not the largest. If it was one of the best, as far as delivery was concerned, probably this might be acceptable but sadly it isn’t and most, both locally and internationally, know it.

unionbldgsIn the fight that has now started to prune costs, moving Parliament from Cape Town to Pretoria has been suggested on the basis that this might save considerable airfare costs, time spent sitting in aircraft and train seats when the country needs one’s administrative time in the office and pointless time spent on hotel accommodation honing up on the next day’s parliamentary presentation.

However, all of this is only a manifestation of the real problem and it does not answer the question of why Parliament is so busy at this time of year.

Odious comparisons

Minister of Finance, Pravin Gordhan is obviously in an extremely embarrassing position. He must realize himself that the Cabinet to which he belongs is arguably one the largest in the world evidenced by the fact that whilst there are thirty-five very highly paid ministers in the South African Cabinet, the USA has a “cabinet” of sixteen. China pushes it a bit with twenty-five and India manages one of the biggest populations in the world with twenty-three.

It all becomes slightly ludicrous when an additional thirty-seven Deputy Ministers are weighed in to Team South Africa.

Wrong ratio

Down the line and aside from the cost of running all these ministries, the thirty-five departments belonging toparliament mandela statue these Ministers, accompanied by some seventeen of the larger SOEs, must all report to a totally disproportionate number of MPs in Parliament, both in the portfolio committees in the National Assembly and the select committees in the NCOP.

Hence the parliamentary traffic jam at this time of year. All this at the cost of quality oversight (the job of Parliament) and the slowing down of urgently needed legislation. Meanwhile, the number of MPs is governed by the Constitution. The number of cabinet ministers and departments (and consequently the ballooning public service) is governed by the President.

The answer to the parliamentary traffic jam problem and the imperilled and much-needed cost saving exercise in terms of the Budget is therefore really a complete no-brainer.
Previous articles on category subject
The big SA cabinet crunch – ParlyReportSA
Special cabinet statement might correct damage to SA – ParlyReportSA

Posted in Cabinet,Presidential, earlier editorials, Facebook and Twitter, Justice, constitutional, LinkedIn, Public utilities0 Comments

Broadband allocation on its way

Minister wants BEE ownership in broadband…..

sent to clients 20 March….As if nobody knew already, the Minister of Telecommunications and Postal Services,cwele Dr Siyabonga Cwele, told Parliament that broadband allocation is perhaps the biggest regulatory bottleneck in the South African deployment of wireless technologies.     He said, at the same time, he wants to see Black owned companies have their fair share of allocation.

However, both he or his department (DTPS) and the regulatory body ICASA seem to be at odds on the system needed to allocate the spectrum, particularly in the area of setting aside sufficient spectrum to support Black broadband development and ownership specifically.    The fight to deliver urgently more high-speed bandwidth to South Africans generally is being slowed down it seems by this difference in opinion expressed.

global broad bandPresumably, the delay is all about whose satellites we use – Chinese, Russians or the US accompanied by an intelligence risk – or do we go via the masts owned by the private sector. Minister Cwele probably suspects any such deal with the private sector will not serve black interests in the proper manner. Digging trenches and laying down optic line cannot be any kind of answer.  In telecommunications all is political, rather like the nuclear issue and the similar problems faced by department of energy – the political structure overlays the practical answer.

Dr Cwele has now said the final policy paper is on its way to Cabinet.

One on one

In an extraordinary meeting with the Portfolio Committee on Telecommunications and Postal Services, both parties explained their views with the views of MPs to be added to what has become a national debate dominated to an extent by Minister Cwele’s views.

The background to the impasse is that the Electronic Communications Act empowers the Minister to issue policy directives but ICASA does not necessarily have to accept such. To distill the views of each into a few words is difficult but clearly the driving principle behind Dr. Cwele’s approach is an allocation which favours black transformation in control of spectrum whereas ICASA prefers an allocation more on an “auction” basis, whereby bidders not only name their price but then add their additional contributions to Black upliftment and general social development.

cell phone mast graphicVodacom, MTN, Telkom, Cell C and Neotel have in the past sunk enormous sums into the development of communications structures but the current delays in allocation are, according to reports, hurting the industry but their BEE structures are shallow, say insiders.

Dedicated view

Industry sources said before the meeting “Minister Cwele is seized with the need to transform the sector to ensure meaningful Black participation but spectrum allocation cannot be granted in the same way as the granting of concessionary mining licences, for example, if Black empowerment is the goal.”

The principles of the allocation process as stated by DTPS are indeed noble, as quoted in the relevant draft Policy Paper before Parliament, which state that the aims of the allocation policy are to:

• Promote the effective and efficient management of spectrum to ensure
  agility, flexibility and adaptability in spectrum administration
• Reduce bureaucracy and streamline processes for spectrum assignment
• Support the attainment of the national broadband targets set out in the
  South Africa Connect programme at speeds and in the time frame outlined
• Provide clarity on the treatment of spectrum in instances where demand exceeds supply
• Set aside spectrum for use on an open access basis with joint private sector investment
• Support the provision of, emergency services, safety and security and sector-specific operations

Milder

In the parliamentary debate, Sipho Mjwara, Acting DG, DTPS, was more conciliatory and said the spectrum was a public resource belonging to all people and DTPS had to apply itself on how to deal with this for the benefit of all. Currently the spectrum was operating on a first come, first serve basis but this principle certainly did not benefit all. He said there were “barriers to entry for small companies and artificial monopolies helped little.”

This was followed by comment from the Deputy Minister, Prof Hlengiwe Mkhize, who said it was “more logical” not to shrink away from exercising the mandate of DTPS to follow the NDP on broadband roll out. “The pillars that need to be in place must include those that had previously been excluded”.

Money must talk

Pakamile Pongwana, CEO of ICASA, responded that from an international perspective it was no longer the policy,icasa ceo as had been the case in the past, of getting maximum fees into the fiscus but the needs of complete coverage of the country. It was a combination of coverage and fees, Pongwana said.

Germany had raised money from the spectrum divide, he said, but they had included a proviso that bandwidth would only be released when rural areas had been covered. He added that other countries were already looking at 5G networks while South Africa was still looking at LTE use. “We have to stop playing catch-up”, he said.

War of words

From the debate between all groups, DTPS, ICASA and parliamentarians, it became obvious that there is an ideological battle going on. The industry sees the independence of ICASA as regulator at stake, industry sources say. The Minister said he had looked at the idea of the allocation of “set asides” for high demand spectrum but added “the Department wants the whole pie to be available for all South Africans. We are in a situation where a duopoly owns 80% of the spectrum.”

However Pongwana concluded, “The allocation of spectrum was the country’s policy choice and the assignment would be by the Regulator and be in line with procedures. While there was long term licensee allocation there was short term spectrum allocation and the Department wanted to give certainty to licensees.”

Money, money, money

moneyOn the question of infrastructure spend, DDG for ICT Infrastructure in the DTPS, summarised government views in the meeting when he said that in a country like South Africa with infrastructure and access gaps, the question had to be asked whether the country wanted to raise money as its main goal. He said it was more about service and reaching all South Africans as part of the NDP but in an equitable manner.”

Whether it would be for free or go to the highest bidder were questions the DTPS was considering as it looked at all approaches. It would probably not be for free, he said, but there had to be a compromise where small companies are not at the mercy of big companies “because of market power relations.”

The Minister concluded that all in DTPS were listening to the views of the public and industry.

Ministerial clusters.

The next step before submission of the new Spectrum Policy to Cabinet during March was to consult with the particular clusters as part of the ICT Policy White Paper procedure. Once the Spectrum Policy had been approved by Cabinet and gazetted as part of the ICT White Paper, ICASA could proceed with the licensing process on the agreed basis.
Previous articles on category subject
Lack of skills hampering broadband rollout – ParlyReportSA
Overhaul of broadband policy underway – ParlyReportSA

Posted in BEE, Communications, Facebook and Twitter, Finance, economic, LinkedIn, Public utilities, Special Recent Posts, Trade & Industry0 Comments

Minister Brown wants utility shareholder management 

Shareholder Management Bill could kill cosy jobs…. 

sent  to clients 20 Dec…..Public Enterprises Minister, Lynne Brown, reports that she is to introduce, as aLynne Browndraft, the Shareholder Management Bill as part of a plan to introduce more leadership ability and some form of continuity for the state owned enterprises (SOCs) under her control. This includes Eskom, Transnet, Denel, SA Express, Alexkor and Safcol.

Maybe start of something big.

Whilst troubled SAA is now an independent, falling under National Treasury for the moment. Providing President Zuma makes no more changes, Minister Pravin Gordhan is set to sort out National Treasury itself and challenge the management style of his old stomping ground, SARS.. How much come out of the Cabinet Lekgotla is critical.

The problem children

PetroSA logoMeanwhile, PetroSA is in real deep water, the entity falling under Central Energy Fund (CEF) and which reports itself to Department and Energy (DOE). But at least the PetroSA problem is now in the open with somebody obviously having to take over the reins and sort the mess out, probably CEF itself.

Oddly enough there are people in CEF who know exactly what the problem is but once again politicians pushed experts in the wrong direction, it appears.

In addition, the Passenger Rail Association (PRASA) is very much on the slippery slope and, together with SANRAL, both present highly contentious transport issues, are now in the hands of to untangle

Public Enterprises comes to the party.

Minister of Public Enterprises, Lynne Brown appears to be getting the senior management of her portfolio undereskom control and whilst there could possibly be power supply problems at Eskom she says, because “machines can break down unexpectedly”, the leadership is there, as is the case with Denel.

Minister Brown recently reported at an AmCham meeting in Cape Town that there are around seven hundred SOCs, an extraordinary fact, but bearing in mind the fact that South Africa is reputed to have the largest head count in public service per population count, this would appear quite probable.

On the road again

With Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa chairing an Integrated Marketing Committee, which will hopefully designate which entities should remain SOCs and those which should be absorbed back into their relevant departments, there appears some hope with regard to containing the ballooning public service machine which has characterised President Zuma’s presidency.

Hands off appointments

An essential element of Minister Lynne Brown’s plan is to remove the appointment to the boards of the entities under her domain away from Ministers, including herself, to a shareholder management team that creates a leadership operational plan for all SOCs and appoints, through due process, a tightly run appointment system.
A brave proposition indeed but it does indicate that Minister Brown is her own person.

Whilst the proposals might look like state control, in fact it is a clear signal that government may have heard the message that the current system of Ministers appointing board members is not working and is one of the reasons leading to what the auditor general calls “useless and wasteful expenditure”.

On the drawing board

The Shareholder Management Bill, Minister Brown said subsequently in Johannesburg, will first need a concept paper (perhaps she means a White Paper) and such could be released after the Cabinet Lekgotla in February, with an intention of introducing such as system by the end of 2016.

Minister Brown said that she herself as a Minister would therefore be excluded from making appointments in her own SOCs for a start. Perhaps this system can be applied to all forty-seven government departments and agencies, suggested a questioner bu the Minister would not be drawn into matters outside of her brief.

Leadership needed

During the same address, she added that Eskom was “not out of the woods” yet and there was still not sufficientlyne brown 2 electricity to facilitate economic growth but this would change. Minister Brown said none of the entities under her control “would be approaching the National Treasury with begging bowls.”

One small step

No doubt, as far as confirmation of an appointment is concerned, the Minister involved will still have to “approve” any selection decision by the independent team of specialists but it is worth watching the outcome of the debate on the shortly-to-be tabled Broadcasting Bill, if only to see if the appointment of inept senior appointments can be halted or reversed.

What has come out of the Eskom, PRASA and PetroSA issues is that a person who has no right to be in a position of leadership, or worse one who has supplied fraudulent qualifications, leads to frustration and anger by those with genuine skills and high academic qualifications lower down the ladder and at the coalface.

This is in the space of government service where technical skills are located and badly needed and it is hoped that Minister Lynne Brown has more of these “eureka” moments.

Previous articles on category subject
PetroSA on the rocks for R14.5bn – ParlyReportSA
Central Energy Fund slowly gets its house in order – ParlyReport
Shedding light on Eskom – ParlyReportSA

Posted in Electricity, Facebook and Twitter, LinkedIn, Public utilities, Special Recent Posts, Transport0 Comments

Overall energy strategy still not there

Feature article………….

DOE energy strategy in need of lead 

From closing parliamentary meeting….sent clients dec 15….   South Africa’s energy strategy problem is as much about connection as it is about the integration of supply resources, said Dr WolseyDr Wolsey Barnard Barnard, acting DG of the Department of Energy (DOE), when briefing the parliamentary select committee on DOE’s annual performance before Parliament closed in 2015

Of all the problems facing South Africa on the energy front, probably the most critical is the lack of engineering resources facing South Africa at municipal and local level, negatively affecting economic development and consumer supply, he told parliamentarians.

He particularly referred in his address to the fact that the main problem being encountered in the energy supply domain was the quality of proposals submitted by municipalities for supply development in their areas.     In many cases, he said, the entities involved totally lacked the technical skills and capacity to execute and manage projects and there was also, in many cases, a lack of accountability with reports not being signed off correctly and in some cases technical issues not resolved before the project started.

Doing the simple things first

Despite all the queries from Opposition members on major issues such as fuel regulation matters; nuclear development and the tendering processes; the independent power producer situation with clean energy connection problems and issues surrounding strategic fuel stocks; again and again (DOE) emphasised that nothing was possible until South Africa developed its skills in the area of energy (electricity) connections.

electricity townshipsThe quality of delivery in this area was “extremely poor”, Dr Barnard said, inferring that without satisfactory delivery of energy the burning issues of supply became somewhat academic. Localised development at the “small end” of the energy chain had to be developed, he said. This lack of skills was exacerbated by the “slow delivery of projects by municipalities and by Eskom in particular”, he said.

Eskom  in areas not covered by local government.

Dr Barnard said that there was a lack of accountability on reports provided; poor expenditure by most municipalities evident from the amount of times roll overs were called for and high vacancy rates in municipalities. Consequently, he said, the overall Integrated National Electrification Programme (INEP) was producing slow delivery of electrification projects requested of both local government and Eskom against the targets shown to MPs.

In probably the last meeting of the present Parliament before its recess, DOE spoke more frankly than has been heard for some time on the subject of its short, medium and long term energy solutions, including a few answers on the problems faced.

Frank answers

DOE explained it had six programmes focus which were outlined as the various areas of nuclear energy; energy efficiency programmes; solar, wind and hydro energy supply; petroleum and fuel energy issues, regulations and development electrification with its supply and demand issues.

DOE specifically mentioned that the Inga Treaty on hydro-power had come into force in the light of theinga fact that conditions to ratify the long term agreement between SA and DRC were satisfied and commercial regulations could begin in order to procure power. This would change the future of energy of solutions. This was a long terms issue but targets for the year on negotiations had been met.

Opposition members were particularly angry that a debate could not take place of nuclear issues and whether South Africa was to procure reactors or not. It was suggested by the Chair that maybe the outcome of COP21 might have given more clarity but MPs maintained that to make a decision DOE, as well as the Cabinet, “must know the numbers involved”.

DOE maintained silence on the issue saying as before that enumerating bid details would destroy the process. It was assumed by the committee at that stage that the then Minister of Finance must be grappling with the issue but MPs wanted an explanation to back up President Zuma’s State of the Nation address on nuclear issues, complaining that nobody in Parliament had seen sight of Energy Minister Joemat-Pettersson nor heard a thing on the issue.

Full team minus nuclear

Present from DOE, in addition to Dr Wolsey Barnard, Deputy DG and Projects and Programmes were Ms Yvonne Chetty, Chief Financial Officer; DG Maqubela, DG of Petroleum Regulations and DG Lloyd Ganta, Governance and Compliance.

On solar energy, DOE said some 92 contracts had been signed in terms of the IPP programmes. Forty of them were now operating producing some 2.2 megawatts of energy at a “cheap rate” when on line and solar germanythe grid being supplied but it became more expensive when not being taken up. Dr Barnard explained that South Africa was not like Germany which was connected to a larger EU “mega” grid in Europe where it both received and supplied electricity.

SA’s system, he said was rather a “one-way supplier”, solar energy being made available only when needed by the grid. But as SA grew economically, things would change.

He commented that the new solar energy station in Upington had not yet been completed but shortly it would not only be supplying energy “when the sun was shining” but, importantly, be able to stored energy for later use. This made sense with the purpose of the IPP programme, he said.

The big failure

On the issue of the PetroSA impairment of R14.5bn, subject raising again the temperature in the meeting, DG Lloyd Ganta of DOE explained that the PetroSA impairment had happened mainly for two reasons.
The first was that PetroSA had made a loss in Ghana to the value of R2.7bn, primarily, he said, due to the fluctuations in the price of oil, the price falling from $110 per barrel to $50 at the time shortly after their entry and at the point of the end of the first quarter.

Project IkwheziThe second reason was due to losses at Project Ikwhezi (offsea to Mossgas) where volumes of gas extracted were far lower than expectation, the venture having started in 2011. At the end of the 2014/5 financial year, only 10% of the expected gas had been realised. When parliamentarians asked what the new direction was therefore to be, the answer received was that engineers were looking at the possibility of fracking at sea to increase the disappointing inputs.

The financial reports from Ms Chetty of DOE confirmed the numbers in financial terms making up the loss,

Dependent on oil price

Acting DG Tseliso Maqubela then stressed that nothing could not change the fact that South Africa was an oil importing country but the country was attempting to follow the direction of and promises made on cleaner fuels and it had been decided to continue with the East coast extraction.

In terms of the NDP, DOE said that South Africa clearly needed another refinery for liquid fuels but

refinery

engen durban refinery

whilst an estimated figure of R53bn had been attached to the issue some time ago for the financing of such, the issue of upgrading existing plant had not been resolved with stakeholders.

Oil companies, he commented, had said that if the government were not to pay for this in part, especially in the light of fuel specification requirements also required to meet cleaner fuel targets set by international agreements signed by SA, the motorist would have to foot the bill as the country could not import clean fuel as such to meet all demand.

More refining capacity

“A balance has to be found with industry and a deal struck”, he said, the problem being that the motorist was at the end of the fuel chain and such a call would affect the economy. He said that possibly the refinery issue could be approached in a phased manner and at perhaps a lower cost.

In the meanwhile, cleaner fuels were a reality and already some traders had applied to the DoE for licenses to construct import facilities, one in Durban and one in Cape Town.

If traders were to bring in large quantities of clean fuels, he said, this would represent a complete change in the petroleum sector and an energy task team, made up of government and main stakeholders was at present putting together a full report on cleaner fuels and a strategy for the future.

LPG a problem

lpgThe Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG) situation was different, he said, since in this area there was not enough production and import storage facilities and it was a question of short supply therefore to the market – a problem especially in winter.

Both propane and butane, the main constituents of LPG are used in the refining process in the far more complicated process of straight petroleum fuel production and with the economies of scale that have to apply to South Africa, this resulted in a high market gate price and insufficient quantities, he said.

Unfortunately, LPG was becoming very much the energy source of preference with householders,especially poorer homes, hence the pressure on government to find some way of introducing LPG on an a far larger scale and at a lesser price. The impression was given that LPG “got the short straw” in terms of production output numbers.

Nuclear non-starter

Again when the subject came round to nuclear matters, no officials present from DOE were in a position to answer MPs questions on why eight nuclear power stations should be necessary, if nuclear was indeed a necessity at all, and whether the affordability had been looked at properly – the chairman again suggesting that the matter be put off until reappearance of the Minister of Energy in the New Year.

Gas on back-burner, as usual

Finally, on questions of gas and fracking, DG Tseliso Maqubela said that government “was takingmozambique pipeline a conservative approach” inasmuch that any pipeline from Northern Mozambique to South Africa was not under consideration but that plans were afoot to expand existing pipelines from that territory in the South.

On fracking, as most knew he said, a strategic environmental assessment had been commissioned, basic regulations published and also the question of waterless fracking was a possibility, now being investigated.
Previous articles on category subject
MPs attack DPE on energy communications – ParlyReportSA
Eskom goes to the brink with energy – ParlyReportSA
South Africa at energy crossroads: DOE speaks out – ParlyReport
Gas undoubtedly on energy back burner – ParlyReportSA
SA aware of over-dependence on Middle East, says DOE – ParlyReportSA

Posted in Electricity, Energy, Facebook and Twitter, Fuel,oil,renewables, LinkedIn, Mining, beneficiation, Public utilities, Special Recent Posts, Trade & Industry, Transport0 Comments

Zuma’s nuclear energy call awaits Treasury

Nuclear energy awaits funding model…..

Sent to clients Dec 10 ….Cabinet’s approval of a financing model for the Nuclear New Build programme is all that is seriously holding up the nuclear energy procurement, the Department of Energy (DOE) has told Parliament’s Select Committee on Economic Development.

Z MbamboThis was said by Zizamele Mbambo, DDG, Nuclear, DOE, when giving the most recent update to parliamentarians on the background to the South Africa’s nuclear programme. In giving the history of SA nuclear development, he said that South Africa began its nuclear energy power plan in 1985 with Koeberg in Cape Town and the country should have its second plant up and running by 2023.

This much later programme was the culmination of a process which was re-started by Eskom in 2006 with the approval of the IAEA but then stopped by SA during the financial crisis in 2008, he said.

Start-up again

Later in 2013, much had changed on the nuclear energy supply situation because of technological advances in safety and the Russian and Japanese experiences. South Africa therefore requested in that year a specialised report from IAEA with their recommendations, the first country to do so where there was already a successful nuclear energy programme running.

IAEA supplied such a report with ten recommendations which South Africa will strictly adhere to, IAEA Mbambo said, these recommendations being in the public domain. The New Build programme would only be started upon a certification that all such recommendations had been met, a requirement of South Africa’s own nuclear energy regulator.

The National Nuclear Energy Executive Coordination Committee was earlier established by Cabinet in 2011 and the “2030” plan was endorsed by Cabinet the following year. In 2013, DOE was appointed as procuring agency. The Nuclear Energy Policy of 2008 still shapes South Africa’s vision for nuclear power, Zizamele Mbambo said.

Nuclear sellers

Inter-governmental agreements (IGAs) have so far been signed with five vendor countries and these IGAs lay the foundation for trade, exchange, nuclear technology and procurement with the particular vendor. It was conditional that all vendor nations must have signed nuclear non-proliferation agreements.

The principle behind South Africa’s Nuclear New Build programme was to replace the retiring coal fleet meeting additional demands and providing certainty to investors on energy, he said.

In answer to parliamentary questioning on the IGAs signed as a result of a “vendor parade”, Mbambo stated the following:-

The Russian Federation had agreed to assist in design, construction, operation and decommissioning of the nuclear units. Russia would also assist in the localisation of the manufacture of components for the nuclear units.
France would assist in applied research and development, and also with accounting and physical protection of nuclear waste.
China would assist with experience exchange, personnel training and enhancing infrastructure development.
The USA would assist in development design, construction, operational maintenance and use of reactors for reactor experiments. USA would also assist with health, safety and environmental considerations.
South Korea would assist in the use of nuclear energy for electricity generation, heating and desalination of salt water, and in dealing with radioactive waste.
Canada and Japan were in negotiation with SA, and these IGAs were in the final stages.

SA’s vision, Mbambo commented, was to become autonomous in nuclear energy from the beginning to end of the value chain.

Waste worries

He would not comment, however, on the court case to be heard with Earthlife on the issue of nuclear logoradioactive waste as this was sub-judice, he said.    He also said IAEA had been perfectly happy with previous Koeberg arrangements as far as waste was concerned but obviously plans had to be extended.

In answer to MPs questions on cost and the next stage of the programme, he agreed that nuclear option was indeed highly capital intensive. However within 20 years, Mbambo said, the capital investment would have been reduced to nil and in view of the long 80-year life of a plant, the following 60 years would come with nil capital cost, resulting in cheaper electricity relative to the time frame.

Future dreams

It was foreseen, he said, that with nuclear energy having lower maintenance and fuel costs the relative costs of electricity tariffs to industry and consumer could be reduced also in relative terms during the 60 year period and energy sales could become a “cash cow”.

When asked about hydro energy sources and gas development, Mbambo said this was outside of his brief to answer.
Other articles in this category or as background
National nuclear control centre now in place – ParlyReportSA
Minister Joemat-Pettersson clams up on nuclear – ParlyReportSA
Nuclear partner details awaited – ParlyReportSA

Posted in Energy, Enviro,Water, Facebook and Twitter, Finance, economic, Fuel,oil,renewables, LinkedIn, Public utilities, Special Recent Posts, Trade & Industry0 Comments

PetroSA on the rocks for R14.5bn

Project Apollo plan to save PetroSA…

Sent to clients 6 Oct.…..A team comprising of industry experts is now defining a new strategy to save the PetroSA struggling offshorePetroSA logo gas project on the East Coast.   The experts were not named but the exercise is entitled Project Apollo and reports were given to Parliament that the team has progressed well so far, said controlling body Central Energy Fund.

Despite producing a balance sheet that shows a technical cash profit of R2.5bn in simplistic terms made up of revenue less operating costs, in reality PetroSA is clearly beyond business rescue in proper commercial terms unless it manages to get a bail-out from Treasury to save the troubled entity from written off “impairments” of R14,5bn. But business rescue is on the way it would appear.

R11.7bn of the “impairment” was as a result under performance of its Project Ikhwezi to supply gas onshore to Mossgas.

Reality sets in

The total loss for 2014/5 was in reality R14.6bn after tax.      Project Apollo will now tackle the main cause of the loss at Ikwhezi, options stated as including “the maximisation of a number of upstream initiatives; the utilisation of tail gas; and how the gas-to-liquid refinery itself can be optimised with the new, revised and “limited under-supply of feedstock.”

cef logoThe Central Energy Fund (CFE), acting as the parent body for PetroSA, told Parliament that it is applying for such assistance, PetroSA being flagged by Cabinet some twelve years ago as “South Africa’s new state oil company”. CEF described PetroSA’s performance as merely “disappointing”, which raised the ire of most parliamentarians.

Those present

To add pain to the proceedings for Deputy Minister of Energy, Thembisile Majola, and senior heads of the Department of Energy (DOE) also in attendance together with the full board of CFE represented by new acting Chairman Wilfred Ngubane, the auditor general’s (AG) highly critical findings were read out one by one to MPs of the Portfolio Committee on Energy.

All this resulted in the remark from Opposition member, Gordon Mackay, that PetroSA “instead of becoming afikile majola national oil company had become a national disaster”. Criticism was levelled at both CEF and PetroSA across party lines, Chairman Fikile Majola demanding that Parliament conducts its own forensic audit and investigation into the facts that had led PetroSA to achieve such spectacular losses.

It appears that in the total accounting of the loss of R14.6bn for the year under review, R1.8m was also incurred in the form of non-performance penalties; stolen items of R110,000; over payments in retrenchment packages of some R3m; and R55,000 stock losses. Irregular transactions in contravention of company policy amounted to some R17m, the AG noted.

Lack of industry skills

Although the AG’s report was “unqualified” in terms of correct reporting, lack of management controls and bad investments were identified by the AG as the problem. In fact, acting CEO of PetroSA, Mapula Modipa, clearly inferred that lack of skills generally in the particular industry, lack of background knowledge in the international oil investment world and lack of experience in upstream strategic planning had led PetroSA year after year into its loss situation.

Particularly referring to troublesome investments in Ghana, Equatorial Guinea and continued exploration and production at Ikhwezi resulting in the “impairment”, a sort of write down of assets totalling R11.7bn, reports have been submitted before to the Portfolio Committee on Energy over the last two years. Warnings were given.

However in this meeting the AG’s views on the subject were under discussion and the terminology used by the AG could only be interpreted, as put by MPs, as poor management decision-making, lack of knowledge of the oil industry and the appropriate management skills in that area.

Roughnecks wrestle pipe on a True Company oil drilling rig outside WatfordHowever, over the years going back over previous annual reports for the last five years with forwards by Ministers and Cabinet statements issued over the period, it becomes self-evident that the “drive” to establish PetroSA as a state entity in the fuel and gas industry was politically driven, coupled with (as acting CEO Mapula Modipa had inferred) inexperience in the top echelons.

Still the Mossgas problem onshore

However, self- evident this year were the declining revenues from the wells at sea supplying Mossgas, where it was stated that now one wells had been abandoned, three were in operation and two had yet to be drilled. Project Inkwezi, against a target of 242bn barrels per cubic feet (bcf) only delivered 25 bcf from three wells. A “joint turnaround steering committee” had been formed to help on governance issues, technical performance and the speeding up of decision making. But the bcf is unlikely to change

Part of the new plan has involved of a “head count reduction” and employees had been notified. It was admitted that PetroSA had an obligation to rehabilitate or abandon its offshore and onshore operations costed at R9.3m in terms of the National Environmental Management Act and a funding gap of R9.3m now had to be bridged in the immediate future to pay this further outstanding in terms of the Act.

Further forensic audit

The cross-party call for an independent parliamentary forensic investigation that was made (which included thegordon mackay DA chairperson Fikile Majola as the driver behind the motion) “will hopefully not just result in a blame game”, said Opposition MP Mackay “but get to the bottom of how such an irresponsible number of management decisions with public money took place over so long a period.”

Chairperson Majola (ANC) concluded “This amount of money (R14, 5bn) cannot just be written off without someone being responsible.” He added, “There has appeared much difference between the abilities of technical staff and the technical knowledge of the leaders and decision makers on the board of PetroSA.”

Minister of Energy, Ms Joemat-Pettersson, was again absent from the meeting. However, earlier, in the meeting, the Deputy Minister standing in for her, said “when all is said and done we intend staying in this business”.

Nil from Necsa

necsaA meeting following in the same day, following the CEF presentation, was a report from the Nuclear Energy Corporation (Necsa) which failed to happen because Necsa were unable to produce an annual report or any report, Minister Joemat-Pettersson having obtained an extension of one month to the end of October for the annual report to be ready. Chairperson Majola said that the meeting could not take place without a financial report since oversight of such report was their mandate.

Opposition members complained that not only had Parliament’s time been wasted but that the whole instruction for Necsa to be present “appeared to be a media exercise to show that the governing party was on the ball”.

A litany of problems
The extension for the Annual Report conclusion had been granted to the Minister in terms of the Public Finance Management Act (PMFA), a fact well known, but the media were present in strength in the morning not only for the CEF’s explanation for the PetroSA loss but in the afternoon for Necsa explanation of its loss as a regulatory body, in the light of current media reports on irregularities, staff resignations and dismissals.

Other articles in this category or as background
PetroSA has high hopes with the Chinese – ParlyReportSA
CEF hurt by Mossel Bay losses – ParlyReportSA
Better year for PetroSA with offshore gas potential – ParlyReport

Posted in Energy, Facebook and Twitter, Finance, economic, Fuel,oil,renewables, LinkedIn, Public utilities, Special Recent Posts, Trade & Industry0 Comments

SA’s COP21 climate change paper debated

sent to clients 13 October….

All on climate change but not cost…

cop21 logoAlmost always ignored at the recent parliamentary public hearings on the SA COP21 climate change submission was the issue of finances, probably the essential ingredient that should have been debated as part of South Africa’s position in the forthcoming  conference in Paris on intended targets for reduction of greenhouse gases.

After two full days of submissions, with no time for committee member questions from MPs in the light of time restraints and the re-presentation of papers in Xhosa, an impression was gained that there remained the same sharp divide between the providers of statistics that clearly showed what a future world would look like if South Africa and other countries continued on existing paths and those who called for reality in the light of the fact that South Africa is a coal-based economy and will remain so well into the mid-century.

State developmental call only

Surprisingly costs to the tax payer and to business and industry featured little in the proposed department of environmental affairs (DEA) COP22 submission, other than by emphasing the point by investing sooner was a more advantageous position to be in than later, when the cost of “catch up” would be far greater.

The submission is to be South Africa’s call on implementing their portion of 2015 COP agreement from its Green Climate Fund and which reserve fund is supposed to be capable of mobilising $100bn from 2020 onwards.  Also to be resolved is the issue of the immediate sources of funds and to capitalize into reality for use what already exists in the fund.

Maverick viewpoint

The one person who did approach the issue of funds but who fell into the category of a “denialist”Phillip lloyd according to environmental observers, was Prof. Phillip Lloyd of the Energy Institute, Cape Peninsular Institute of Technology, a known detractor of climate change. 

He claimed that in fact climate change issues represented a massive multi-billion industry with a potential turnover of R1,174bn. It was staffed by thousands of NGOs around the world, he said, employees of sensitive international companies, whole government departments and enormous amount of diverted funds that could be put to better use.

He claimed that the current warnings on climate change and “doomsday scenarios” were largely based on unsubstantiated statistics, or at the very least, exaggerated claims. Such funds should be diverted to development, not wasted on pointless conferences, he stated, and technologies that could not hope to meet the demands of growing populations.

Fact or fiction

He showed a graph of rainfall records for England and Wales going back to AD 1750 which indicated a mere 4% rise over the entire period and whilst indeed CO2 emissions , according to him, had increased alarmingly affecting health this was in no way connected to climate change because temperatures had only increased 1%, part of a long process of global warming that went back to the globe’s emergence from the last Ice Age.

Similarly, he noted, rising sea levels had been going on for “thousands of years” but the current level of annual sea rise was dropping in terms of archaeological and geological studies conducted, again over the centuries. He said that the current spend globally on the whole so-called climate change awareness programmes and infrastructure spend amounted to some R15,500 per person globally and “sooner or later this hype had to come to an end”, he concluded.

The chairperson thanked Prof. Lloyd with a sense of amusement.

Developmental help

gridsAnother issue raised regularly regarding the DEA COP 21 submission hearings was the call for capacity building to handle new clean energy resources, a major problem in many developing countries. Financial and technology mechanisms had to be shared and adapted wherever possible, particularly in countries where forced change would stunt economic growth, the paper before them stated.

Most submissions focused on the fact that the two issues had to be in harmony but few could expand how this could be achieved successfully, some submissions just taking the “green at all costs” approach. Nevertheless, in broad terms, all submission except the one acknowledged the urgent need for some sort of structured approach to the agreed need for climate change programmes.

Most submissions also made reference to the activities of Eskom or Sasol in one way or another, referring to such in one case as “the primary polluters in the South African context”.  Subjects brought up varied from fracking to small enterprise farming and renewable energy supplies to carbon capture.

In the one corner….

Greenpeace maintained that listing nuclear energy as “low-carbon” option was disingenuous in that Greenpeacenuclear life cycle in itself was carbon intensive and should not be referred as an energy component for clean renewable alternatives and preferably removed altogether.  

Other predictable submissions came from such bodies as Earthlife Africa and the World Wildlife Fund, who specifically named fossil fuels as the major problem, one of the few times vehicle fuel emissions were mentioned in the two days.

COSATU complained that the use of nuclear energy did not create jobs and would not help the economy in any way but did raise the issue that the effect of global warming was a fact and would be ”devastating as far as employment was concerned”.

The legal view

The Centre for Environmental Rights (CER) stated that South Africa’s negotiating position at COP 21 should succeed in giving effect to section 24 of the Constitution regarding the right to health but they complained that DEA’s long term plans, which included accommodating coal-fired power generation and its highly water-intensive processes had no hope of meeting constitutional requirements unless urgent changes were made.

They pointed out that aside from Medupi and Kusile, the Minister of Energy’s plan to procure an additionalmedupi 2500MW of coal fired power included seven further coal-fired plants yet to be built and which were in the planning stage, mostly in Limpopo and Mpumalanga. Both these provinces, CER said, were highly water stressed areas and had zones already declared as health priority areas due to poor air quality.

Even the right of access to drinking water was threatened in these areas, they pointed out, both issues, air pollution and lack of drinking water in their view representing potential breaches of constitutional privilege.

Top down problems

A number of interesting submissions were made on the problem of local government implementation of climate change mitigation plans.    A particularly important submission came from SA Local Government Association (SALGA), who pointed to the fact that whilst climate change was a national issue and called for a national approach, this did not change the fact that implementation and controls, regulations and planning mostly had to be done by cities and municipalities.

SALGA said there seemed to be no cohesion either in funding or in policy between national government and to some extent provincial government, but certainly not with local governmental authorities. They called for an “enabling framework” that could be adopted in key localised areas and so that “the voice of local government could be heard” by those paying for it.

Methane and fracking

A scientific paper known as the Howarth Report, emanating from Cornell University, was presented by a private individual, Marilyn Lilley, which focused on hydraulic fracturing and the greenhouse gas footprint left by this fracking drilling, the Howarth Report specifically focusing of fracking in the United States of America. Ms Lilley related these findings in her presentation with that of the 200,000sq km area released for fracking ventures in the Karoo.

A quick read of the Howarth Report indicates that in the US during the life cycle of an average shale-gas well 3.6 to 7.9% of the total production of the well is emitted as methane gas. This is at least 30% more and twice the harmful effect as gas extracted from conventional oil wells, the report says.

Also there is a 1.4% leakage of methane during storage and transmission of shale gas. This is the far the most dangerous component of greenhouse gases, the average black smoke emitted from a factory containing on the whole mainly harmless soot, the report concludes. Ms Lilley said that methane was “enemy number one”, adding again that methane had a far greater effect on global warming than any amount of coal fired energy generation.

Methane spouts

Fracking_GraphicShe also said that during the hydraulic fracturing stage of a drilling, which would go to at least 3-4kms vertically to a shale layer and then for approximately 2kms horizontally along the seam, fracturing then takes place with explosives and some 20 million litres of water with silica sand and chemicals pumped in to cause the methane gas to return to the surface with the then toxic water.

She said well pads are usually built 3-4 kms apart in a grid formation and each pad can have up to 30 wells, each being capable of being fracked a number times and each frack taking about 20 million litres of water.

She concluded that fracking whilst be making an unpleasant major contribution to greenhouse gas emissions, the process rather contributed more to global warming which was the actual root problem. She called for fracking and consequent methane gas emissions to be accounted for in South Africa’s COP 21 submission as a subject in itself and for a moratorium to be declared on fracking exploration and subsequent gas extraction.

She also pointed to the fact that disposing of the then toxic water extracted, in some cases needing irradiation, would become an immense and unmanageable waste problem and the light of the distances involved in the South African scenario.

Agri-plans and consequent food processing development

farmingA considerable number of submissions focused on the importance of establishing viable small farming units and a completely self-sustaining mini-agricultural food industry in specially located zones. The proposers suggested suitable cropping of vegetables and staple foods in order preserve the food chain for poorer communities under climate change conditions, the zones themselves contributing to healthier emissions with normal synthesis.

Carbon capture investigation

The South African National Energy Institute (SANEDI), reporting to the Central Energy Fund, gave a report- back on their work in the South Eastern Cape where a pilot drilling project, carried out on-shore for reasons of cost, was exploring the possibility of large-scale carbon storage at sea.    Prof. AD sanedi carbon capSurridge described carbon emissions capture as part of the “weaning off process necessary” whilst the country moved slowly from a fossil fuel based economy to a renewables/nuclear mix.

This pilot storage plant should be running by 2016, SANEDI said, and “commercial rollout possibilities concluded by 2020”.

Marathon run

In closing, Jackson Mthembu, chairperson of the Environmental Affairs Parliamentary Committee, said that “in South Africa, we are known for differing with respect”. This had been the purpose of the hearings, he pointed out.

He concluded by saying that climate change, as an issue, cut across all facets of government and consequently the parliamentary submissions collective summation would be shared across the desks of all Ministries involved.

Other articles in this category or as background

Environmental pace hots up – ParlyReportSA

Tougher rules ahead with new evironmental Bill – ParlyReport

Electric cars part of climate change response – ParlyReport

Posted in Enviro,Water, Facebook and Twitter, Finance, economic, LinkedIn, Mining, beneficiation, Public utilities, Special Recent Posts, Trade & Industry, Transport0 Comments

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