Dear OUTA Members and followers
One gets a clear sense that 2016 was a defining year of change for South Africa’s political regime. A year during which President Zuma felt the push-back against his conduct and lack of visionary leadership. Many who once supported him, or stood back and allowed his questionable behaviour to go unchecked, are now stepping forward with disapproval. Some will say this is a mere case of ‘rats jumping a sinking ship’, but whatever the motive is, these are the signs of shifting forces, as the call for his departure gets louder every week.
The crescendo for #ZumaMustFall/MoveOn/Whatever will become deafening for Zuma and his connected cronies in 2017, and I for one believe he may not survive his full tenure until the ANC’s 54th National Conference and executive elections.
The question is, who will succeed the despot that many blame for holding our nation back from the heightened prosperity we ought to have achieved? One reads of new names beyond the old favourites of Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and Ramaphosa entering the discussion, making for an interesting political power-play to head up the (barely) ruling party. What we are sure of though, is that Zuma’s replacement will have an immense opportunity to take the country forward, and the success thereof will be influenced by a change of attitude in three areas:-
Whatever happens though, OUTA is poised to take up the growing number of challenges against the abuse of authority to new heights. Our operational structures and project management systems are in place to take on more cases and to heighten our impact in 2017.
While 2016 was a year of phenomenal growth for OUTA, it was also a year of consolidation, reflection and introspection that enabled better prioritisation of the work we do. No doubt, we are not short of issues and projects that meet our mandate of holding public servant and state owned entity leadership to account for unacceptable conduct, corruption and maladministration.
The past year has seen our teams working on a number of projects, the bulk of which are in the following areas:
New projects are being developed in the areas of Water Security, Tyre Tax corruption, the conduct of the Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB) and PRASA, along with other matters which have come to the fore within Sanral, Eskom, the Department of Energy, SAA and the SABC. These will be revealed as and when it is appropriate for us to expose these serious transgressions, some of which we have been working on rather extensively throughout 2016.
From all of us at OUTA, we thank you and all our contributing supporters who make our work possible. Your contributions provide us with the energy to exist, to grow and to champion the causes and projects we tackle.
To you and your families, friends and loved ones we wish you a safe and festive summer season, knowing that next year will be a better one than the past, for all who live in South Africa.
As far as the success of the e-toll scheme goes, the compliance levels remain below 20% with SANRAL barely able to cover the administration and collection costs. The few who remain compliant are generally corporate entities, car rental, leasing and government fleets. We have however seen a number of fleet based businesses decide to halt with payments and join OUTA’s e-toll defence umbrella, saving themselves tens of thousands of rands each month.
There are however, a number of unintended and serious consequences for the authorities, should they go down this road.
OUTA has written to the new SANRAL CEO and others in authority, as to how and why this action will give rise to serious problems for not only SANRAL, but also the Road Traffic Management Agency (RTIA) and Local licensing authorities. In short, by trying to force an unjust and failed national policy (or e-Tolls) through the mechanisms of a justified local tax (of vehicle licensing), this practice will not only invite a serious legal challenge from the public, but will also invite the e-toll civil disobedience campaign to spill over into the vehicle licensing arena. This is a situation the local authorities can ill afford to happen, but more so, will develop into a problem they will not be able to undo. There are other legal and practical challenges this action will attract, but we will leave these unannounced for now.
OUTA remains focussed on seeing an end to the e-toll debacle and we believe that as 2017 is the year that SANRAL must decide on renewing the e-toll collections contract, plus expected changes in ANC leadership, the end is not far off for the termination of the failed scheme.
We must however also work and engage with the authorities to find a solution to this impasse and to ultimately ensure that SANRAL does not collapse or fail as an entity. We need a Sanral to build roads, but we don’t need one that lacks transparency and does not operate with the best intentions for the public.
Aside from our case against NERSA in March this year, to have the electricity tariff reconciliation clearing accounts correctly processed prior to the increase approvals, OUTA’s focus in in 2016 and going forward will be a multi-faceted scrutiny and challenge to hold the Eskom executives to account for not only their conduct, but also their lack of fiduciary duties and incessant waste of tax-payer’s money.
We find it unacceptable that a whole nation can be held hostage by a monopolistic power supplier who is accused of being caught up in state capture, and continues to act in a manner that is not conducive to transparency or best intentions for the public.
Over the past few months, our increased focus in the energy sector has ensured that Eskom’s conduct has come under scrutiny. Despite National Treasury warning that nuclear is too expensive and all indications from the current Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) talks that nuclear energy is not a fit for our energy needs, Eskom continues to behave as if nuclear is a foregone conclusion and necessary development for South Africa.
OUTA took the lead in pushing for the publication of the IRP 2016 by writing to the Presidency, the Minister of Energy and others in authority, to remind them that this is a legal requirement before any nuclear can be considered.
When the IRP and IEP was finally announced at the end of November, the content of both has been disappointingly scant and inappropriate to seriously attend to our nation’s energy needs. According to Ted Blom, OUTA’s Portfolio Director for Energy, “the IRP2016 reeks of reverse engineering to try and force nuclear into the energy mix for the future, which of course ties in with Eskom’s recent announcements and drive for nuclear build proposals and information.
In our opinion, there is no need to rush, especially that; (a) The nuclear deal was flagged as a highly suspicious issue several times in the recent Public Protector’s report on State Capture, and (b) even if one applies the outdated IRP 2010-2030, nuclear energy is not required prior to 2030.
Following our formal engagement strategy, OUTA wrote again to the minister of energy in November 2016 to voice our concern about the flawed IRP, and also questioning her department’s decision to ignore the advice of the Ministerial Advisory Commission on Energy (MACE) by not selecting the lowest base cost model.
Eskom’s role in the nuclear saga is very suspicious. We find it highly irregular that Eskom was elected to announce the immediate rollout of the nuclear procurement plan before the IRP2016 has even been finalised. Equally worrisome is the fact that Eskom scheduled public hearings on the IRP and the procurement of nuclear to take place between 7 and 15 December, barely ten days after the draft IRP was announced.
OUTA presented our views and concerns to a panel from the Department of Energy a the public hearing in Boksburg in December. Representatives and energy experts from different organisations reiterated similar concerns related to the rushed process and flawed documentation. We believe more time is needed for the public engagement process on this important matter, one that will impact on the cost of electricity for decades to come.
OUTA is committed to ensure Eskom and the Government follow due process and do not proceed with the nuclear deal, if indeed it is not in the best interests of the country. It appears our work is cut out for us in 2017.
The transgressions of both fiduciary duty and the general laws, by the SABC Board of Directors, are many and varied.
Our investigators have certainly had a busy time sorting through all the evidence we have collected along the way, much thereof from whistleblowers, who have confirmed our suspicions of Hlaudi Motsoeneng’s misconduct and abuse of taxpayers’ money.
Apart from investigating Motsoeneng’s unlawful appointment and misconduct on his part, our investigation focused on the irregular procurement of a studio for more than R40 million, as well as Motsoeneng’s illicit deal with MultiChoice and the related R11,4 million bonus he received for signing the deal. We have also investigated misconduct by the Board, including their failure to adhere to the judgement of the Supreme Court of Appeal and their failure to properly implement the remedial action set forth by former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela in her report “When Governance and Ethics Fail.”
We found that, despite the fact that Motsoeneng openly admitted in his interview with Thuli Madonsela that he had lied about his qualifications, the SABC Board did nothing to stop him.
Our team has worked tirelessly to produce an investigative report which we subsequently shared with various interested parties, including the Parliamentary Ad Hoc SABC Inquiry Committee and the Procurement Department of National Treasury. Both parties welcomed our help and we look forward to building on these relationships in future in our fight against corruption and tax abuse.
OUTA will shortly file papers and charges to seek redress and accountability from the various individuals who have overstepped the mark with their unacceptable conduct at the SABC.