Tag Archive | lynne brown

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

The big SA cabinet crunch

Editorial….

Cabinet hopes are Brown, Ramaphosa, Gordhan…..

Public Enterprises Minister, Lynne Brown, reports that she is to introduce as a cabinet draft, the Lynne BrownShareholder Management Bill as part of a plan to introduce 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.

We hope this is the start of something big.

The last few weeks have been an exercise in disaster, so let’s try and take a positive spin on things from a parliamentary viewpoint. Whilst troubled SAA is now an independent, falling under National Treasury and if President Zuma minds his own business, Minister Pravin Gordhan is to sort out National Treasury itself and also the troubled SARS, which he re-designed in the first place and which became such a success working with Trevor Manuel.

More problem children

Meanwhile, PetroSA is in real deep water falling, the entity falling under Central Energy Fund (CEF) reporting to Department and Energy (DOE). With Minister Joemat-Pettersson not back from COP21 or wherever, the country still faces some serious energy issues. But at least the PetroSA problem is now all in the open, with somebody obviously having to take over the reins and the mess, 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 which are now in the hands of Minister Cyril Ramaphosa to untangle. Troubling times indeed.

Public Enterprises comes to the party

lyne brown 2Now Minister Lynne Brown appears to be getting the senior management of her portfolio under control and whilst we could still have shutdowns at Eskom she says, because “machines can break down unexpectedly”, the leadership is there she says, as is the case with her Denel.
Lynne Brown recently reported that there are around 700 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 possible.

On the road again

With Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa chairing an Integrated Marketing Committee, which will hopefullyramaphosa 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 cabinet and 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 book.

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, is open to abuse and what is worse, the consequent “jobs for the boys” system results in taxpayer’s money being thrown away through bad management, corruption and what the auditor general calls “useless and wasteful expenditure”.

On the drawing board

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

Whilst it is pretty obvious who should not be on such an appointment team, the plan begs the question of will be chosen to occupy such critical posts but it is far too early to cogitate on this one. With Ministers changing their portfolios as if it was a game of musical chairs, there is reason to congratulate Minister Brown on the statement that she herself as a Minister would be excluded from making appointments in her own SOCs.

Leadership needed

During the same address, she added that Eskom was “not out of the woods” yet and there was still not sufficient electricity to facilitate economic growth, but the leadership issue was being addressed satisfactorily with the right people being appointed. Brown said none of the entities under her control “would be approaching the National Treasury with begging bowls”.

Perhaps this is the principle being adopted behind the scenes with the SABC, which whilst not affecting business and industry other than travel costs, unlike trade and investment hurdles and industrial strategic changes, SABC is threatened by the possibility of being returned to its parent government department which at first glance appeared to be a move by President Zuma to gain control of state financed media, Mugabe style.

However, in a broad sense it seems to be Minister Brown’s idea that appointments to the top echelons running the country should be as a result of finding those qualified to do so rather than being handled by totally unqualified persons, some with solicitous intent, and others trying to retain power with dubious appointments such as having friends, in the case of the SABC, to broadcast “the truth” to specific rural audiences.

Unprincipled governance remains the one of the biggest problems facing South Africa, intrinsically coupled to (and in some cases causing} lack of growth and lack of jobs.

Croneyism

Bad appointments by Ministers and of Ministers has been the cornerstone of control by patronage, the route for corruption and the reason for sheer bad management, a practice now openly exposed but not yet controlled by any means. From a parliamentary viewpoint, let us leave it there. The rest is being said by the media but most MPs when they return to Parliament in late January 2016 will have realized that sheer stupidity can ruin their own futures and their pensions.

But if Minister Lynne Brown, in her practical and down to earth manner, can come up with the remarkable idea of Cabinet Ministers, hopefully including the Presidency as well, not interfering in who does what as far as expertise is concerned, then perhaps this can be applied to all 47 government departments and agencies.

One small step

No doubt as far as confirmation of an appointment, the Minister involved may still have to “approve” such a decision 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 bad leader with no qualification or right to be in a position of leadership, or worse led by one who has supplied fraudulent qualifications, leads to frustration and anger by those with genuine skills and high academic qualifications lower down the ladder at the coalface. This is in the space of government service where technical skills are located and badly needed.

We hope Minister Lynne Brown has more of these “eureka” moments.

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Shedding light on Eskom

Editorial……  week ending 30 April 2015

Breaking up old empires……

Lynne BrownOne parliamentary meeting we did attend with anticipation in the last few days but have not reported to our clients , despite the media attention, was the appearance of minister of public enterprise Lynne Brown with her public enterprises team for the scheduled presentation of the department’s strategic 5-year and annual performance plan to the public enterprises portfolio committee.  A non-event if ever there was one.

Minister Brown is a hard working lady and managed to fit this in out of respect for Parliament.

Unfortunately, she had absolutely nothing to add to what has been said in the media, adding yet once again that depressing qualification made in every government statement that  “loading shedding will continue for the next two years in order to avoid a total blackout”.

Doors need opening

One comment she did make was worth noting, however,  She said on the Eskom issue, “I have a eskom logoresponsibility as shareholder representative but cannot interfere from a political level in the management and operations of the SOCs.   However, if matters go wrong, I have oversight responsibility.” 

In our humble view, oversight responsibility is not enough if action is called for, especially if every minister has to sign a performance agreement to deliver on his or her appointment.  She also bemoaned the fact that, as we write, that no definitive “war room” statement has been made to tell the country what is going on.

Going some…

The minister commented during the meeting, almost as an aside, that Eskom is and always had been the same animal for some 50 years now, employing at the moment some 42,000 people. Change had to come, she said.

We spot legislation in the making, in the same way that minister Gordhan Pravin must push his way into local government and make changes.  Management talent for a three tier government and six massive state owned utilities is running short.

Other articles in this category or as background
Energy gets war room status – ParlyReportSA
Eskom goes to the brink with energy – ParlyReportSA

Posted in earlier editorials0 Comments

Electricity connections not making targets

No hope of meeting Zuma’s promises…

elec poleThe inability of municipalities and local government to bring electricity to the poor and for the department of energy (DOE) to meet its promised target of electricity to all households by 2015 was a subject which dominated the DOE’s annual report to Parliament recently. New Minister of governance and traditional affairs, Pravin Gordhan, will have this issue before him as he tackles local government problems as will new minister of public enterprises, Lynne Brown.

Ms Nelisiwe Magubane, DG of DOE was reporting on the activities of her department for the 2o12/13 period and neither the minister of energy, Ben Martins, or his deputy, was present, much to the chagrin of portfolio  committee energy committee chairperson, Sisi Njikelena, who reported angrily on the subject.      DOE was reporting on its annual report and second quarter achievements.

Success with avoiding Middle East for oil

In noting that the year had been dominated by fluctuating oil prices, Ms Magubane noted that South Africa had succeeded in switching 41% of its oil imports to the African continent.

DG Magubane also reported that the electricity supply situation had improved in the country and the department’s own household electricity connection programme had also improved, mainly thanks to Eskom, but there was a large backlog that still existed due to lack of accountability by municipalities. This was a worrying factor for the country, she said. On this subject, further reports followed.

Other DOE targets met

Dr Barnard

Dr Barnard

On clean energy as far as the year was concerned, she reported that in August financial close had been received from twenty eight of the independent power producer (IPP) bids: the biofuels blending regulations had been drafted; the draft pricing arrangements started; and a nuclear safety report compiled and submitted as a result of lessons learnt from the Fukushima disaster.
 Dr Wolsey Barnard took up the issue of DOE’s poor record on electricity connections and said that bearing in mind the lack of skills and training at local government, it “was a miracle that South Africa had achieved so much”.

Aside from the fact, he said, that the government financial year was different to the municipal year, which made a mockery of funding programmes and targets, he said dealing with municipalities was “extremely difficult”  but nevertheless “for each seventy seconds of each day there was a connection some here in South Africa”.

Treasury must ring fence local funding

On the problematic relationships with local government, Dr Barnard said DOE was doing as much as it could “but you can pull a rope but you can’t push it and that was the trouble in dealing with local government officials”.   He said he looked forward to the day when National Treasury’s promised Bill “ring fencing” funds was promulgated “and then we might get somewhere”, he said.

He noted that each municipality had to sign a contract to get funding in the first place, providing business plan, “but sometimes we get to a place to install for a lot of homes built and there is no sub-station or any hope of connecting to the national grid”.

Cabora Bassa dam debt at R1

nelisiwe magubaneMs Magubane confirmed that in the annual reports a loan to Mozambique for the Cabora Bassa dam had been written down to R1 with the permission of Treasury. This loan was in respect of money loaned in the ‘sixties and it was clear that the Mozambique government could not pay. However, the question of re-payment of this loan would be re-raised, she said.

On queries why there seemed so little interest in gas exploration by government in Mozambique, whereas other countries seemed to have “got their foot in first”, Muzi Mkhize, chief director of hydrocarbons, said that “unlike other countries, we do not subsidize our national oil exploration effort and, in any case, the quest of dealing with countries was a foreign affairs matter and country to country relationships had to come first.”

SA to meet Mozambique on gas exploration

Sisi Njikelana said that this was a totally unsatisfactory answer and called on Mkhize for a better explanation to his committee.  Mkhize admitted that South Africa was “meeting Mozambique on a government to government basis on gas exploration matters in mid-October”.

When asked what had happened to the nuclear safety report, deputy director general of nuclear, DOE, Zizamele Mbambo, said that this was a security document but it had been acted upon.

The Eskom representative was asked to speak on the subject when a question was raised about the Koeberg Nuclear plant by a Cape Town MP, and the Eskom official reported that a “fortnightly nuclear safety committee met in the area with all representatives present” and that the meeting was chaired by a person drawn from the local community.

Refer to articles in this category
http://parlyreportsa.co.za//public-utilities/municipal-free-basic-services-slow-build/
http://parlyreportsa.co.za//energy/dpe-

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