How to steal a billion from Eskom – and leave SA in darkness

Just when you thought President Cyril Ramaphosa and Shamila Batohi were going to make small inroads into cleaning up the industrial-scale Zuma era and ongoing corruption, Eskom’s CEO tells us of a sabotage scam hobbling Eskom’s generation capacity. André de Ruyter – while not exactly blaming climate change as Ramaphosa did in ducking responsibility for a lack of vigilance around yet another KwaZulu-Natal disaster – has some mind-boggling reasons for why South Africans can no longer rely on power supply. Maintenance contractors are deliberately putting hard objects into mills supplying coal to power stations, causing breakdowns and generating lucrative work for themselves. There’s also been R1,3bn in power station spares stolen; three people are facing charges for some of these. So, if anyone doubts that looting and corruption are endemic and ubiquitous across all SOEs and in the public sector, consider this: when it comes to corruption, journalists – let alone Eskom – have lost the power to shock. Article republished courtesy of MyBroadband. – Chris Bateman

By Myles Illidge

Eskom employees and contractors at the Tutuka power station managed to steal spares worth R1.3bn and got away with it.

Eskom CEO André de Ruyter revealed the power utility had to write off the spares as they could not track them down. He also stated that Eskom was aware of continued collusion between maintenance contractors and coal suppliers to sabotage its generation equipment.

“During the last financial year ended 31 March 2021, we had to write off R1.3bn in spares at Tutuka power station, where we simply couldn’t find the spares,” De Ruyter said.

He stated that the situation indicated the misappropriation of the funds assigned for spares at the power station and that the investigations into the matter are ongoing. De Ruyter explained that another significant challenge Eskom is facing is the sabotage of its equipment by coal suppliers colluding with maintenance contractors.

“We are also aware of collusion taking place between people with maintenance contracts, maintenance management, and coal suppliers in order to, for example, disrupt the operation of mills by adding very hard objects to the supply of coal into a mill,” he said.

This ensures that the mill breaks and the contractor can then come in to repair the damage. De Ruyter said that continued sabotage and criminal activity had resulted in Eskom stepping up security at its power stations.

“We now have people on the floor at our power stations patrolling regularly. It is not an ideal situation,” he said. He added that Eskom is conducting various investigations into continued corruption, particularly in generation procurement. It would be taking further steps to eradicate the phenomenon from the generation department. This would, in turn, help to stabilise the power utility’s generation capacity.

“It is really contributing to unreliable generation capacity when people are focussed more on stealing than on doing their jobs,” he stated.

In November 2021, Eskom announced that two of its employees and a supplier had been arrested and charged with fraud, theft and corruption relating to the disappearance of spares at Tutuka power station. Eskom alleged that it had paid hundreds of millions of rand – not the R1.3bn it has now revealed – for spares that were never delivered and services that were never rendered.

The suspects – Jessie Phindile Kubeka, Sarah Nomsa Sibiya and Bhekizizwe Solomon Twala – all faced the same charges and were released on bail of R5,000 each. Commenting on De Ruyter’s statements, the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse said that the looting at Eskom won’t stop until people are jailed for their crimes.

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