A crack Hawks team that follows money flows is investigating how Eskom maintenance budgets were repeatedly redirected and then looted through dodgy tenders.
Poor maintenance at power stations is the main cause of the latest round of rolling power cuts, and Eskom is urgently trying to secure an early leak-detection contract in its efforts to halt loadshedding.
But senior Eskom sources said a new contract is not a quick fix, and load-shedding is expected for at least another year.
Minutes of an Eskom board meeting in November 2015 reveal it approved transfers of cash between divisions totalling R313m. Public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan said this week that funding for maintenance began to disappear five years ago.
At the time of the 2015 meeting, Eskom was led by men later linked to state capture, including CEO Brian Molefe, chief financial officer Anoj Singh and director Mark Pamensky.
● Eskom is scrambling to secure a contract for the early detection of leaks on boilers of its power plants before these fissures expand and lead to units crashing.
Such a contract lapsed in 2017 and Eskom has been unable to pin down a new one.
During a briefing on Tuesday by public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan, Eskom’s chief operations officer, Johan Oberholzer, said the lapse in the previous contract had contributed to this week’s stage 4 power cuts. Eskom acting head of generation Andrew Etzinger said yesterday the leak-detection system was twofold.
“It was to have the licence for the actual leak-detection software, which is still in place, and the contracting of skills to operate the system. Earlier this year, under the guidance of the [Public Finance Management Act] and strict Treasury regulations on commercial contracts, an attempt was made to source the skills needed to operate the system. It was unfortunately unsuccessful and has taken an unnecessarily long time, given Treasury’s strict rules on commercial processes.
“While we wait for returns on the [request for information] we have the engineers and power-plant technicians who are using their skills, along with software, to detect potentially developing leaks,” he said.
“It is not a hit-and-miss process but when these leaks are detected it does take time to repair. Sometimes it takes a week to repair a single leak.”
He warned that the benefits would be seen only over 18 months.
Supply from the Cahora Bassa hydro plant in Mozambique, which supplies SA with 1,050MW of power, had been mostly restored after it was cut in Cyclone Idai. Etzinger said 900MW was being provided.
“In terms of the [shortage of] diesel, deliveries and transfers have started but it is a massive process. It is going to take time and we are not out of the woods yet in terms of supplies.”
Meanwhile, a senior Eskom official said power cuts could last for at least a year.
– Sunday Times