For the first time in the democratic era‚ the office of the auditor-general has complained about a minister unwilling to commit to addressing the root causes of trouble in her department.
The minister accused is Energy Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson. In an unprecedented step‚ in Tuesday’s presentation on the energy budget‚ the page for “ministerial commitments to address root causes” was left blank by the auditor-general’s office.
When MPs of the African National Congress (ANC) and Democratic Alliance (DA) asked the officials about the blank page‚ the rueful officials said they had been trying for a year to meet with Joemat-Pettersson‚ but had “just been out of luck”.
DA MP Gordon Mackay quipped that he was not surprised at the officials’ apparent run of bad luck.
“It is part of the minister’s continuing disappearing act. She should really try to focus on South Africa. She is abroad so often other countries think she is their minister of energy‚” Mackay observed.
All in all‚ there was much bad news for South Africans from the auditor-general’s report into the department of energy and its entities.
Regarding PetroSA‚ South Africans will have to fork out unbudgeted additional billions to the troubled entity this year because it drastically overestimated both the oil price and‚ more worryingly in the long term‚ the country’s strategic energy reserves‚ which have now suddenly been readjusted to much lower levels than previously thought.
The black hole facing PetroSA is R9.2-billion. The funding deficit (ie‚ that part which PetroSA cant fund from its own balance sheet) is R4.2-billion. Therefore‚ the parent company‚ the Central Energy Fund‚ has made commitments to cover this amount.
Further trouble lies ahead in the nuclear field.
Firstly‚ there are clearly massive problems with the audit of the books of the Nuclear Company of South Africa (Necsa).
Necsa has not been able to table its annual report for this year. The office of the auditor-general refused to divulge the facts‚ and portfolio committee chairman Fikile Majola said the auditors might have to brief the committee confidentially.
When The Sunday Times reported in April on signs that Necsa was in serious financial trouble‚ the company reacyed angrily but now the situation seems very serious indeed.
Secondly‚ The department of evaluation monitoring and performance management admitted that‚ as of April‚ which is the latest date on which it can comment‚ no plan had been tabled for the country’s much-vaunted nuclear build programme.
Majola and ANC MP Tandi Mahambehlala commented that this and other aspects of the report were so far off the mark that it was unrealistic.
The officials were instructed to return with a realistic report on the prospects and planning for the country’s department of energy.