Archive | Fuel,oil,renewables

By-passing Parliament at one’s peril

….editorial,  30 May 2020

Regulations mania hits South Africa …..

Winston Churchill, perhaps the greatest political and parliamentary figure of the last century, said that if you make 10,000 regulations you destroy all respect for the law.  Take a look at South Africa where far too many conflicting and nonsensical regulations are espoused on a weekly basis, some of them with only a loose and highly doubtful connection to the law, the Disaster Management Act, under which they are gazetted.

What started with good intent in the rush to halt the spread of Covid 19, ‘flatten the curve’ and buy time to build medical supply lines and PPE reserves, has turned into a regularised pattern of government by dictate.  We are in danger of getting used to the idea of government finding a way around the people’s Parliament just because 400 people can’t gather together in the light of social distancing, in itself another regulation.

This shortcut to governance has to be stopped before it becomes regularised in any way.  In the process of searching for a way to speed up what at times can be a cumbersome system of democratic checks and balances, the country has invented an immensely powerful and what could well be an illegal intervention named, by somebody unknown, as the National Coronavirus Command Council.

Rules in bulk

After only a month of the president’s announcement of the declaration of the national state of disaster, more than 50 sets of Covid-19 related regulations, directives, notices and directions have been published nationwide in its name.    Lawyers and business chambers are struggling to keep up with it all.

The problem now being faced is two-fold.  Firstly, the high-sounding and most unfortunately militarised name of “Command Council” represents an entity not recognised in the Constitution, or anywhere in the statute book.   It is purely an invention of a clique within the governing party as an instrument to administer a law cobbled together in a few months called the Disaster Management Act.

Somehow, without the knowledge of Parliament, a handpicked number cabinet ministers, chosen one has to assume by persons residing at Luthuli House, has granted executive functions and powers to a pick of between 8 and 19 cabinet ministers (the number varies) who meet at undisclosed places and take national decisions.

The same unknown group has ignored some thirty to forty other cabinet ministers for reasons unstated to form this command unit and there we have it, a new grouping administering a whole country by regulation.  It is so important that we do not get used to this alien concept as a substitute for ordinary democracy, whether or not it has a body a scientific expertise advising it or not.

Power point

On the subject of powers, the Constitution is quite clear – all cabinet ministers are accountable “collectively and individually to Parliament”.   But to repeat, this caveat is made nonsense of when a cabinet cabal, including the Deputy President, start making government policy affecting citizens’ rights without even a parliamentary nod.

Granted, that originally there was a need for speed and given the fact that Covid 19 is a disaster of global proportions, it was understandable that hastily convened and rushed virtual parliamentary portfolio committee meetings tried vainly to “debate” the issues that might arise as a result of implementing the Disaster Management Bill.    In fact, they did remarkably well in the circumstances and South Africa became the first country to try and handle parliamentary debate electronically in the light of lockdown.

Law by laptop

Virtual meetings make any meaningful debate nearly impossible at the best of times. They are designed more for briefings than for discussion.  In the understandable rush, the buttons pressing the “ayes” became the norm in the short time allowed. The Disaster Management Act (DMA) is the result and is now history.

Now, the buttons are being pressed by Dr Nkosazana-Zuma, the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA), the department which the DMA empowered, most assuming that COGTA would be more of a spokesperson for the system to be adopted.

Governance by regs

However, “risk-adjusted strategy regulations” were published in a flash by COGTA in the light of the disaster (not emergency) powers with a statement that read, “The Cabinet minister responsible for cooperative governance and traditional affairs upon the recommendation of the cabinet member responsible for health and in consultation with cabinet, declare which of the following alert levels apply, and the extent to which they apply at a national, provincial, metropolitan or district level.” It all sounded like we had things in hand.

In the UK or Commonwealth countries, this process would have amounted to making Dr Nkosazana-Zuma prime minister and Dr Zweli Mkhize her deputy prime minister.  Nevertheless, Parliament in SA  soon fell outside of the inner circle when it came to oversight. Parliament deals with legislation not regulation.

What sticks to the wall

After a week or so,  it became more than noticeable that many of the regulations just did not link up and appeared randomly unconnected. The cooked chicken problem, no flip flops and absurd choices on who could and could not work.   Looking at it from a parliamentary aspect, to create temporary hospitals and to ban liquor and cigarette sales, and then cancel one factor but not the other, seemed not only a stretch under the same law but also a legal anachronism.

Worse, just the act of banning liquor sales and thus damaging the tourism and hospitality industry possibly forever is unlikely to pass any “justification analysis” constitutionally.    Most of the public comments called for in the form of  business submissions are now accumulating in government offices or parliamentary boxes and certainly unlikely ever be seen by Dr Nkosazana Zuma.   She is known for having no appetite for this sort of thing, as was discovered by the African Union.

LIFO

Now many of the regulations are causing serious “unintended consequences” in application, such as schooling, resulting in a law gone rogue.  A further well publicised example has been where regulations allow religious gatherings whereas most major religions did not call for them, nor will exercise them. Gatherings include funerals for the dead but not a healthy game of bowls for the elderly. Most have no idea of who consulted who on outcomes, representing more muddled thinking by a body which records no minutes and meets in secret.

South Africa has invented a most dangerous mechanism where everybody just relies on the Presidency to eventually “put things right” when the panic is over.  To do this, President Ramaphosa, in the light of a forthcoming ANC conference, will have to dissolve this mechanism somehow and terminate its powers. This politically powerful entity is led by a person who contested with him the position of president and who split the governing party in half doing this.

Its going to be a bumpy ride.

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Parliament goes virtual for lockdown


….20 May 2020…

SA first with virtual e-debate

….At the same time as the venerable British Parliament was tackling what seemed to them a totally invasive idea of a virtual e-Parliament, South Africa was simultaneously tackling the same subject as COVID 19 arrived at the shores of Africa.  Immediately, the issue of the consideration of lockdown conditions arose in SA and the question of how Parliament could work with everybody boarded.

Whilst British parliamentarians dithered on the subject and due to the fact that the UK kept social distancing going for a much longer time before their lockdown came into force, South Africa’s virtual website portal went up in an incredibly short time and was first in the world by a few days.

Maak ‘n plan

In comparison, the British virtual system. which is also now also working, only allows for debate in the House of Commons whilst South Africa, in terms of its Constitution, follows proceedings in both the National Assembly and the NCOP and also at committee level as well, with the current joint meetings providing provincial coverage.

The design of the entrance website is pretty similar to the UK portal, the principle being the same but with a British budget, the UK presentation is a good deal slicker.  All the same, the Daily Telegraph complained after the UK launch that all that the voice links in the meetings sounded like Darth Vadar and it was confusing to know who was speaking.

Many players

The beginner’s look of the SA virtual meetings is understandable in the situation.   One can see in SA technicians are having a daily struggle with people using Skype and Zoom connections for the first time, some of whom have little knowledge of the difference between an app and a hard drive.

Most are trying, knowing it all has to happen and it would be best to learn quickly but a certain number of senior politicians still demand studio facilities and a camera.   We shall no doubt look back in years to come and laugh at these early attempts to live a virtual reality life.

48 hours allowed

In South Africa, where the decision to suspend the SA Parliament was a “precautionary measure” in the light of a forthcoming Cabinet decision on how to deal with the pandemic, Parliament’s presiding officers in the form of chief whips and political parties all agreed beforehand on the 17 March that the remaining two days of parliamentary business would be devoted to urgent legislation only.

As a result of this decision, Budget Papers in the form of the Division of Revenue Bill were hustled to the National Assembly for adoption in order that money could flow to the provinces and local government.   A Cabinet meeting followed and the Speaker of the House, who acts for the President in Parliament, was summonsed for a meeting soon after.

Hard facts

The role of Parliament is indispensable for the country to run.   The Constitution demands that Parliament scrutinise and oversee all Executive actions, processes Bills in the  form of legislation, to provide a forum for public consideration of issues and to facilitate public involvement in its legislative and other processes. Such is inviolate, whatever the conditions facing the country.

Realizing that the only way was virtual meetings to consider matters,  Speaker Thandi Modise issued a statement that Parliament would have to “intensify its technological capabilities for a transition to an “e-Parliament”.   She concluded that as a result, a decision had been taken that “Parliament will be able to resume taking advantage of virtual media technology”.

 Into action

The leave period, or recess, for MPs was duly cancelled and parliamentary staff were assigned permits to stay at work.  They used this time for urgent meetings -to assess how Parliament could best resume its proper function under lockdown regulations and deal with the lacuna (i.e. a situation where there is no applicable law to deal with the matter).

It was agreed by the Speaker that priority had to be given in Parliament to virtual meetings that required oversight on COVID-19 matters, bearing in mind the limited number of meetings that could be held at any one time.  It was also agreed that any virtual meetings would be primarily joint meetings based on the government cluster system, i.e. meetings comprising the various representatives from a number of differing committees affected by one subject.

 Order, order

Chief whips were then tasked to adapt parliamentary rules to meet the new conditions. All this had to be based on the procedures, precedents, practices and conventions, which have been developed over the years, known as parliamentary rules.  This was in respect of not only how NA and NCOP virtual plenary meetings were to be run but how debate was to be conducted committee.

Speaker Thandi Modise then confirmed to all political parties that in the planned virtual meetings, members of parliament would have the same powers, privileges and immunity as they have ordinarily in parliamentary proceedings.  Quorum requirements were to be exactly the same she said, and MPs would be entitled to cast their votes either electronically or by voice.

Public participation and access to virtual proceedings had to be made possible, said Modise, “in a manner that is consistent with a participatory and representative democracy, virtual meetings to be live-streamed wherever possible”.

Global comparisons

Despite time limitations Parliament was indeed able to try and benchmark against some other legislatures who were operating as legislatures whilst their countries were fighting against COVID-19. To the surprise of all, little was found.

The prime constitutional constraint in South Africa’s case was that any virtual meetings had to involve both the sittings of the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces and these had to be seen to be happening if the public wished to observe proceedings, a factor necessary according to the Bill of Rights.   This was overcome by making most meetings “joint” committee meetings of parallel committees from both Houses.

One and only

In the UK, which has no constitution, a parliamentary virtual meeting concept had been designed and planning was six months into happening.  From a standing start, SA Parliament achieved their deadline in about a fortnight.  Australia and New Zealand are still only thinking of going about it and the USA is still fighting about lockdown itself.

Without fanfare, the parliamentary process under the extraordinary conditions began internally in the Cape Town precinct after a very short training period on 20th April, with access being made to the existing  public parliamentary website on the link www.parliament.gov.za/parliament-tv.

 Time will tell

The whole thing seems to work quite well but obviously glitches occur regularly whilst MPs struggle from time to time to find the mute button and some appear if they have just got out of bed.  Already, however, after an initial learning curve, things are changing and before long it will be the way things happen.

At each meeting, provision is made for the parliamentary secretary to log in those MPs present at a virtual meeting, name them, see them, accept apologies and at point count voting if required from those logged in through the  electronic response system.   Minutes are established later through the audio track recorded in the same manner as before. This is quite some procedure to witness in some of the hallowed chambers where the Speaker once wore a wig.

An MP’s presence in any virtual meeting is established through a secure link sent to their email address which also enables counting to be established for the purposes of establishing a quorum, taking decisions on issues or voting on a matter. Links are established on Facebook, Linked-in, Twitter and Instagram, the photography on Facebook on parliamentary issues being quite stunning.

 7 out of 10

In general, the new parliamentary virtual world established is considered by most quite for such a rush and the process will no doubt tide the country through this terrible period in its history.  This aside from any opinion on how well MPs handle their own inputs and deal with difficult question of switching between one another to pose and answer questions.  What you see is what you get.  The result is not always pretty but it is legal.

One advantage is that with so much happening with lights flashing and buttons to worry about, there is little time for any MP to have a quiet slumber.

Posted in Agriculture, cabinet, Communications, Defence, Energy, Fuel,oil,renewables, Home Page Slider, Justice, constitutional, Police, Public utilities, public works, Security,police,defence, Trade & Industry, Transport0 Comments

Parliamentary Overview 12 June 2019….

 

Changing the guard…  

Plenty of note for business has happened legislatively during the parliamentary recess but perhaps none so important as the re-structuring of Cabinet. As a result  there will be a change in the appropriate portfolio committees to reflect any changes and a consequent shift in portfolio responsibility for various Bills held over from the previous Parliament.    In the areas of energy, trade and industry and communications this will be particularly interesting of who gets to be the chairperson in the light of differences emerging within ANC structures.

Parliament will choose its portfolio committee chairpersons for the National Assembly and select committee chairpersons for the National Council of Provinces on 27th June, two days after the State of Nation Address ANC party chairpersons.  These appointments reflect how a government governs on policy and legislation. Through the chairpersons.

Read more..Parliamentary overview 12 June 2019

Posted in Agriculture, cabinet, Cabinet,Presidential, Energy, Fuel,oil,renewables, Health, Justice, constitutional, Land,Agriculture, Trade & Industry, Transport0 Comments

Parliament censures CEF and PetroSA

….PetroSA, CEF and SFF mess gets worse…

Article circulated  5 May 2019…..

Despite the claim by new acting Group CEO, Sakhiwo Makhanya, that the Central Energy Fund (CEF) annual accounts for 2017/8 have “provided sufficient headroom for growth due to cost containment”, the CEF executive team was unable to convince  the parliamentary energy  committee chair, Fikile Majola, (now Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry) that CEF had a viable future in any energy scenario.

Read morePetroSA

Posted in Finance, economic, Fuel,oil,renewables, Trade & Industry0 Comments

Competition Commission gets to know LPG market

 DOE holds off on LPG regulatory changes…

Sent to clients 25 Oct….In a briefing to the Portfolio Committee on Energy on the report by the Competition Commission (CC) into the Liquified Petroleum Gas (LPG) sector, acting Director General of the Department of Energy (DOE), Tseliso Maqubela, has again told Parliament that the long-standing LPG supply shortages are likely to continue for the present moment until new import infrastructure facilities come on line.

He was responding to the conclusions reached by the CC but reminded parliamentarians at the outset of the meeting that the Commission’s report was not an investigation into anti-competitive behaviour on the part of suppliers but an inquiry, the first ever conducted by the CC, into factors surrounding LPG market conditions.

Terms of reference

In their general comments, the Commissioner observed that the inquiry commenced August 2014 on the basis that as there were concerns that structural features in the market made it difficult for new entrants and the high switching costs for LPG gas distributors mitigated against change in the immediate future.

They worked on the basis that there are five major refineries operating in South Africa, these being ENREF in Durban, (Engen);

refinery

engen durban refinery

SAPREF in Durban, (Shell and BP); Sasol at Secunda; PetroSA at Mossel Bay; and CHEVREF in Cape Town (Chevron). There are four wholesalers, namely Afrox, Oryx, Easigas and Totalgaz.

Wholesalers different

As far the wholesalers are concerned, in the light of all being foreign controlled, CC also observed that transformation was poor, but this was not an issue on their task list, they said. They had assumed therefore that BEE legislation was difficult to enforce and that the issue had been reported to the Department of Economic Development, the portfolio committee was told.

Price regulation at the refineries and at retail level is supposedly determined by factors meant to protect consumers, the CC said, but their inquiry report noted no such regulations specifically at wholesale level. This fact was stated as being of concern to the CC in the light of known “massive profits in the LPG wholesaling sector”.

Structures

Commissioner Bonakele said, “We started the inquiry because of the worrying structures of the market but in benchmarking our market structures with other countries and we found LPG in SA was not only unusually expensive but was indeed in short supply. Why? When it is so badly needed, was the question, he said

The CC established from the industry that about 15% of LPG supplied is used by householders and the balance is for industrial use.   In general, they noted that there were regulatory gaps also in the refining industry but regulatory requirements were over-burdening they felt and contained many conflicts and anomalies.

The CC had also reported that the maximum refinery gate price (MRGP) to wholesalers and the maximum retail price (MRP) to consumers were not regulated sufficiently and far too infrequently by DOE.

Contentious

There needed to be one entity only regulating the entire industry from import to sale by small warehousing/retailers, they said. The CC suggested in their report that the regulatory body handling all aspects of licensing should be NERSA .

As far as gas cylinders were concerned, Commissioner Bonakele noted in their report that there are numerous problems but their criticism was that the system currently used was not designed to assist the small entrant. The “hybrid” system that had evolved seemed to work but there was a “one price for all” approach.

DOE replies

In response, DG Maqubela confirmed that the inquiry had been conducted with the full co-operation of DOE into an industry beset with supply and distribution problems, issues that were only likely to change when there were “adequate import and storage facilities which allowed for the import of economic parcels of LPG supplied to the SA marketplace.”

When asked why local refineries could not “up” their supply of LPG to meet demand, DG Maqubela explained that only 5% of every barrel of oil refined by the industry into petroleum products could be extracted in the form of LPG. Therefore, the increase in LPG gas supplied would be totally disproportionate to South Africa’s petrol and diesel requirements.

Going bigger

Tseliso Maqubela, previously DG of DOE’s Petroleum Products division, told the Committee that two import terminal facilities have recently been commissioned in Saldanha and two more are to be built, one at Coega (2019) and one at Richards Bay (2021). These facilities were geared to the importation of LPG on a large scale.

He said, in answer to questions on legislation on fuel supplies, that DOE were unlikely to carry out any amendments in the immediate future to the Petroleum Pipelines Act, since the whole industry was in flux with developments “down the road”.
It would be better to completely re-write the Act, he said, when the new factors were ready to be instituted.

Rules

On the regulatory environment, DG Maqubela pointed out that for a new refinery investor it would take at least four years to get through paper work through from design approval to when the first spade hit the soil. This had to change. The integration of the requirements of the Department of Environmental Affairs, Transnet, the Transnet Port Authority, DTI, Department of Labour, Cabinet and NERSA and associated interested entities into one process was essential, he said.

On licencing, whilst DOE would prefer it was not NERSA, since they should maintain their independence, in principle the DOE, Maqubela said, supported the view that all should start considering the de-regulation of LPG pricing. He agreed that DOE had to shortly prepare a paper in on gas cylinder pricing and deposits which reflected more possibilities for new starters.

MPs had had many questions to ask on the complicated issues surrounding the supply, manufacture, deposit arrangements, safety and application of cylinders. In the process of this discussion, it emerged, once again, that LPG was not the core business of the refinery industry and what was supplied was mainly for industrial use. The much smaller amount for domestic use met in the main by imported supplies for which coastal storage was underway over a five-year period.

Refining

DG Maqubela noted that on Long Term Agreements (LTAs) between refineries and suppliers, DOE in principle agreed with the Commission that LTAs between refiners and wholesalers could be reduced from 25 years to 10 years, to accommodate small players. Again, he said, this would take some time to be addressed, as was also an existing suggestion of a preferential access of 10% for smaller players.

All in all, DG Maqubela seemed to be saying that whilst many of the CC recommendations were valid, nobody should put “the cart before the horse” with too much implementation of major change in the LPG industry before current storage and supply projects were completed.

However, the current cylinder exchange practice must now be studied by DOE and answers found, Tseliso Maqubela re-confirmed.
Previous articles on category subject
Overall energy strategy still not there – ParlyReportSA
Gas undoubtedly on energy back burner – ParlyReportSA
Competition Commission turns to LP gas market – ParlyReportSA

Posted in BEE, Energy, Finance, economic, Fuel,oil,renewables, LinkedIn, 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, Justice, constitutional, Mining, beneficiation, Public utilities, Security,police,defence, Trade & Industry, Transport0 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

Competition Commission turns to LP gas market

Focus may be on LP gas allocations….

LP gasThe Competition Commission has announced that it will conduct a market inquiry into the state of competition in the LP gas sector.    Public comment is invited from those in the liquified gas petroleum (LPG) sector and the Commission has said that such an inquiry is being initiated because it has reason to believe that there may be features of the sector that prevent, distort or restrict competition.

In its announcement the Commission specifically draws attention to the fact there are six refineries in the country, namely – Sapref, Sasol Synfuels, PetroSA Synfuels, Natref, Enref and Chevref.

Of these, the Commission says, “Only two allocate a certain proportion of their total LPG supply to wholesalers, which may have an impact on competitive dynamics in the downstream wholesale market.”

Value chain additions

The Commission’s inquiries will also extend, they say, to these LPG wholesalers who act as middlemen, or brokers as referred to by the petroleum and gas industry, who “play” the market with allocations from manufacturers.

“Due to the shortages in LPG supply, these firms may have an impact on competitive dynamics at the wholesale level of the market. This impact will be explored during the market inquiry,” the announcement said.

Public participation

The Commission concluded that it would hold public hearings and hoped that “business enterprises along the LPG value chain, other related business enterprises, end-users, government departments, public entities, regulatory authorities, industry associations and any other stakeholders” would assist with their inquiry.

Other articles in this category or as background

  • //parlyreportsa.co.za//communications/gas-act-changes-closer-to-implementation/
  • //parlyreportsa.co.za//energy/doe-talks-biofuels-and-biomass/
  • //parlyreportsa.co.za//uncategorized/competition-commission-promises-health-care-inquiry/

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

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