The Democratic Alliance says that cash-strapped power utility, Eskom, is sending three executives to the 45th World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland.
The event takes place from 21 to 24 January 2015, with ticket prices put at $20,000 per attendee, according to CNN.
According to a cost break-down by CNN, the attendees forked out an average of US$40,000 each (almost R462,000) in 2014 – including the US$20,000 (R230,000) ticket price to attend the conference, as well as travel and accommodation costs.
The US media firm said that because of the recent rally in the local currency, the Franc, costs would increase by at least 15% for foreign visitors in 2015.
It noted that membership fees for firms who want to send delegates to Switzerland were up 20% from 2014, while the rise in the Swiss franc would add as much as $90,000 to the bill.
The DA said it was also looking for answers from Eskom relating to reports that the parastatal was sponsoring the WEF event taking place next week.
Natasha Michael, DA Shadow Minister of Public Enterprises said she had written to Eskom CEO Tshediso Matona, demanding that Eskom cancel its sponsorship.
The DA said it was unclear on how much the sponsorship cost, but was seeking answers from Eskom.
“Sponsoring international events that have nothing to do with solving South Africa’s electricity crisis is a completely unjustifiable expense at a time when Eskom is broke and holding out the begging bowl to South Africans to fund their mismanagement,” Michael said.
“No less than three executives will also be flying out to Davos to represent Eskom. They are Matona, the chairman (Zola Tsotsi), and the group sustainability officer (Steve Lennon),” the DA lead said.
The DA said that organisations ordinarily attending the WEF are granted one attendee invitation, but as a sponsor, Eskom is able to send three delegates, “and has duly taken this opportunity up”.
Eskom said on Thursday that it needs to raise tariffs in order to assist the company in recovering some of its operating costs.
In a quarterly ‘state of the system’ update at Megawatt Park, in Johannesburg on Thursday, Eskom chief executive Tshediso Matona said that the company’s operational strain has put stress on its books.
Matona noted that the company has been forced to use diesel to run its its open cycle gas turbines, at an estimated monthly cost exceeding R1 billion.
“That has put our financial health under stress,” he said, pointing out that there were also other drivers affecting its financial position.
Eskom has approached government for a reported R20 billion bailout to pay for its diesel bill over the short term.
Eskom did not respond by the time of publication.