OUTA seeks greater performance transparency from Eskom

Our PAIA application asks for technical information on operating and environmental performance.

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14/04/2020 09:32:18

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      OUTA seeks greater performance transparency from Eskom

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Eskom has continued to receive bailouts and increasing tariffs over the last decade but has been less than transparent about exactly how its operations are conducted.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Questions at public hearings held by the National Energy Regulator (NERSA) do not yield meaningful answers. After several engagements with Eskom over the past few years, OUTA submitted a formal request to Eskom for information in terms of the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA), asking to receive specified technical information automatically and on an ongoing basis in future. The information we seek is specifically with regard to operating and environmental performance.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      The request was submitted on 3 April; no response has yet been received from Eskom.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      A PAIA application to a state-owned entity (SOE) such as Eskom can be submitted by any citizen or legal persona, and is a formal request for information following due process and the correct channels. This process has to be followed as a precursor to any legal action that may be taken compelling the utility to provide the information requested.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      While we believe that Eskom is now probably in the best leadership space it has been in recent years, the entity is still in bad shape and suffering from the inefficiencies, corruption, lack of maintenance and massive debt burden accumulated during the Zuma era.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      To win the confidence of ratings agencies, financial markets, customers, labour, communities, civil society and the public, much greater transparency is needed from Eskom in respect of financial, operational, environmental and restructuring issues.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      However, it has become clear that Eskom is reluctant to release information that it can and should be providing publicly in real-time, at hourly intervals, and in granular detail down to power station level, as is done by Eskom’s peers globally.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      It is therefore hard to escape the conclusion that Eskom is purposefully limiting the information available to customers and the public in order to avoid scrutiny, accountability and independent analysis of its poor performance.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      “The problem with many of our SOEs and government-managed operations is the lack of transparency and failure to supply of information that society is entitled to see,” says Liz McDaid, OUTA’s Energy Portfolio Manager. “As we know, transparency is the enemy of corruption and poor performance, and is an important driver towards accountability and improved performance.”

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      By enabling the public to have access to automated, real-time information on power station performance, customers, stakeholders and the public are able to see trends and link events to specific decline or improvement in performance.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Further benefits to Eskom, electricity customers, electricity distributors and the general public include increased levels of accountability and peer pressure on Eskom management, staff and workers to improve poor plant performance, and increased recognition for good plant performance. This is an important driver for improved performance at Eskom.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Improved access to information will also enable better planning and more informed decision-making by financiers, lenders, customers, suppliers and the public, based on a more transparent, real-time view of the current state of the power system.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Citizen oversight is an important element of improving government service delivery and, in the case of Eskom, we believe the information we seek will go a long way to improving the performance of this SOE.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      The list of records which OUTA has asked Eskom for is here

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Picture: OUTA

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      OUTA is a proudly South African civil action organisation, that is purely crowd funded. Our work is supported by ordinary citizens who are passionate about holding government accountable and ensuring our taxes are used to the benefit of all South Africans.