The Committee convened in a virtual meeting to consider Eskom’s annual report, the progress of the Special Investigating Unit (SIU), and Eskom’s deviations and expansions. However, as Members were not afforded enough time to examine the 127-page document due to its late submission by officials from Eskom and the Department of Public Enterprises (DPE), the Committee decided to postpone the meeting.
The Committee expressed its dissatisfaction with the conduct of the officials from Eskom and the Department, with the Chairperson indicating that the failure, yet again, of Eskom and the DPE to submit documents in good time ahead of an oversight and accountability interaction had undermined Parliament. Members commented that it had become a trend for Eskom officials to submit requested documents late to the Committee, and this was unacceptable. Both the political heads of the Department and the administrative leadership apologised for the late submission, citing the level of complexity of the report, the effort required to compile it, and the process of having to submit documents to the Committee through the Department -- referred to as triangulation -- as the reasons for the delay. Members responded that while the explanation provided was noted, the apology was not accepted, as both the Department and Eskom had known of the deadline ahead of time.
The Chairperson requested that the Committee be furnished with the shareholder agreement by the end of the day, so that it could determine the legality of Parliament receiving documents directly from the entity, rather than through the Department.
A meeting would be scheduled between the Committee, Eskom and the DPE sometime before the local government elections. The date would be communicated by the Committee.
Late submission of report
The Chairperson indicated that both the Department of Public Enterprises (DPE) and Eskom had submitted the report, which contained 127 pages, 24 hours prior to the meeting, which was past the deadline set for Thursday the previous week. He was left frustrated by the conduct of the officials from both the Department and Eskom, as it seemed that they -- and particularly Eskom -- had little to no regard for fostering a healthy working relationship with the Committee. He added that the Committee had observed that it was becoming a trend for Eskom officials to submit documents late.
Due to the late submission of the document and the complex material that it contained, Members were unable to prepare efficiently for the meeting. This conduct was unacceptable, and as the Chairperson of the Committee, he would take this matter up with the House Chairperson.
Mr B Hadebe (ANC) asked when the Eskom board usually received its agenda and supporting documents prior to its meetings.
Prof Malegapuru Makgoba, Chairperson of the Eskom Board, indicated that usually the board received its board pack (set of documents) seven days prior to a meeting.
Mr Hadebe asked whether the Board had deliberately undermined the oversight roles and responsibilities of the Committee, thus indirectly undermining the voters of the country, by submitting a 127-page document which had still not been approved, one day prior to a sitting.
He also asked whether it was reasonable and justifiable for Eskom to have submitted the report late.
Prof Makgoba responded that it was incorrect for the Committee to lay the blame on him. He continuously urges the staff at Eskom to compile and submit documents on time. Documents submitted to the Committee must be done through the Department.
Mr Hadebe said that as the Chairperson of the board, he should have ensured that Parliament received the document seven days prior to the sitting. He asked when the report had been submitted to the Department.
Prof Makgoba said that the report was submitted to the Department, as it usually was, before it was submitted to the Committee. He added that was a process that was run through the Department.
The Chairperson requested that both Mr Hadebe and the Chairperson of the board not enter into a dialogue.
Ms B Van Minnen (DA) said that because the documents were not handed in on time, Members had been unable to read through the documents adequately.
The Chairperson said that the Committee had given both the Department and Eskom a deadline of Thursday last week to submit the document, yet it had spent the whole weekend trying to ensure that the officials submitted it. He asked why this sequence of events had occurred and what the intention of both Eskom and the DPE was.
He said the Committee would approach the Presiding Officers of Parliament on the matter, as Members would not allow the Department and Eskom to undermine their work.
Mr Phumulo Masualle, Deputy Minister of the DPE, requested that the Director-General (DG) of the Department take the Members into his confidence as to how the process had unfolded.
Mr Kgathatso Tlhakudi, DG of the DPE, said that the Department had noted the criticism provided by Members, and admitted that the Department should have informed the Committee of the potential delay, which had been due to the level of complexity and the effort required to compile the report. He confirmed that the Department had received a letter from the Committee on 16 August, notifying them of the meeting scheduled for today.
He said that the process of compiling this report was different from that of compiling board packs for board committee meetings, as the agendas were set well ahead of time and the committees sat on a quarterly basis. As such, there were already processes set in place.
He added that the information requested by the Committee was very specific and required detail. Furthermore, there were assurance processes that both Eskom and the DPE had to undergo to ensure that the information shared to the Committee and the public was accurate and of a high standard.
He apologised on behalf of both the DPE and Eskom, and committed that in the future they would communicate timeously on delays. In addition, both Eskom and the DPE would ensure that the information provided was of a high standard.
The Chairperson said that while the explanation provided was noted, the apology was not accepted, as both parties knew that this was a continuation from a previous meeting. The Committee had had to chase after Eskom officials simply because there was no will on the part of it and the Department to explain what was going on. He insisted that the Committee would not become a victim of the Department’s micromanagement of Eskom.
Mr A Lees (DA) said that he was unaware of a Department or Minister having to approve a submission of a report requested by SCOPA. Part of the issue was that Eskom had to channel its reports through the Department to the Committee, rather than channeling it via the Minister’s Office, who would then submit it to the Committee through the Parliamentary Liaison. To resolve this matter, he recommended that the Committee resolve that in the future all reports were sent to the Department, including the Ministry, and the Committee simultaneously, so that Members could assess the reports timeously. If the Committee failed to receive the report, it should take action, if it was legally able to.
Mr Hadebe said that no response had been provided on the timelines. He asked when Eskom had submitted the report to the Department, and how much time it required to prepare a report of this nature.
Mr Tlhakudi said that the Department had received the report in the morning of the previous day. The Department had begun processing the report, so that it would be able to advise the Minister on its contents. However, prior to completing the processing of the report, it had sent the report to the Committee, through the Parliamentary Liaison, to ensure that it also had sight of the report.
Mr Hadebe said that the response provided by the Department proved that he was correct in asking whether it was reasonable and justifiable for Eskom to have submitted the report late, when documents for board meetings were submitted seven days prior.
The Chairperson asked when the entity had submitted the report.
Prof Makgoba said that the report had been submitted to the Department on Friday, and not the previous day in the morning.
Mr S Somyo (ANC) said that Members did not have an issue with the DPE processing the reports prior to submitting them to the Committee. Rather, they took issue with the Department’s late submission of the report, which prevented them from studying the report properly. It was unacceptable that the officials had submitted the report late. Whether Eskom had submitted the report to the Department the previous day or on Friday did not change the fact that the report had been submitted late. He condemned Eskom’s conduct and advised that in the future it should ensure that its reports were submitted on a Thursday if the Committee had scheduled a meeting for the following Tuesday.
As Members were unable to prepare adequately, he advised that they should not engage with the report. He also agreed with Mr Lees’s proposal.
The Chairperson said that the Committee had been flexible when dealing with Eskom. For instance, the Department had once requested that the Committee allow it and Eskom to deal with an investigation into the entity, which it had duly granted. He was annoyed by the events that had unfolded.
Referring to Mr Lees’s proposal, he said that the shareholder compact dictates that reports and presentations made by an entity must be submitted to Parliament through the Department. However, he indicated his support of Mr Lees’s proposal.
Mr Hadebe reminded the Members that neither the Department nor Eskom had indicated whether the report submitted had been approved.
Mr Tlhakudi corrected his earlier statement, and said that the report had indeed been submitted by Eskom on Friday, and not on the previous day. He apologised for his misstatement, and said that he agreed with Mr Somyo’s suggestion.
The Chairperson said that he would not subject Members to Eskom’s wrongdoing. The Committee had endeavoured to give a reasonable lead time for its meetings, yet it had not received communication from Eskom or the Department when there were delays. He added that both Eskom and the Department were jointly responsible for the late submission.
He said that the Committee would postpone the meeting and await feedback on whether the report had been approved by the end of the day. Once it had received that feedback, it would then set a date and communicate it, and both the Department and Eskom would be expected to confirm their availability.
He added that the sitting had been a waste of time and a waste of taxpayers' money. With the various issues affecting public financial management in the country, the Committee would have preferred spending its time dealing with other relevant matters. The inability of both the Department and Eskom to notice that, spoke to their disregard.
Mr Hadebe asked the Department to confirm whether the report submitted had been approved.
Prof Makgoba said that the Committee had confirmed that the sitting was a continuation of a previous one. After the previous sitting, he had informed Eskom officials of the information the Committee wanted in the report, and therefore he found it unacceptable that the entity was unable to submit a report that had been requested weeks prior. He added that as the chairperson of the board, he always requested that reports for board meetings be submitted seven days prior, and he had the same expectation when submitting to Parliament. He apologised on behalf of the board, and suggested that the Committee postpone the meeting, to allow the entity to prepare adequately.
Mr Tlhakudi confirmed that the report had been approved, and would serve as the basis for the discussions between the Department, Eskom and the Committee.
DM Masualle confirmed that the report had been approved. He apologised on behalf of the Department. The Department did not want to subvert its accountability, and was in agreement with the Committee’s criticism. He assured Members that the political heads would ensure that the administrative leadership did not embarrass both the Department and the entity again.
The Chairperson requested that the Committee be furnished with the shareholder agreement by end of day, so that it could deal with the issues relating to triangulation -- where an entity had to submit a report or presentation to Parliament through its department. This would allow it to determine the legality of Parliament receiving documents directly from the entity, rather than through the department.
He requested that the three lead Members, Mr Hadebe, Ms Van Minnen and Ms Tolashe, communicate their availability so that Members could set a date for the next meeting. He added that the Committee would not wait until after upcoming local government elections to attend to this matter, due to its seriousness.
On the following day, the Committee would meet with the Special Investigating Unit (SIU).
The meeting was adjourned.
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