Eskom report 'shows 50% vacancy rate in key posts'

A confidential Eskom report shows a vacancy rate of 50% in key posts during the load shedding crisis, the Democratic Alliance (DA) said on Monday.

Cobus Schmidt, DA shadow deputy minister of energy, said his party was in possession of the report from Eskom’s Corporate Technical Audit Department authored in late 2007, and circulated internally just a few months before the country was hit by major electricity supply shortages.

Schmidt said in a statement the report showed in clinical detail how Eskom’s management had comprehensively failed to address “critical vacancies” in two critical areas—senior management posts, and short and long term coal procurement positions.

This report supplemented the conclusions drawn by an internal Eskom memo, released by the DA in September, and authored by Susan Olsen, a leading international expert who had been recruited by Eskom, he said.

In that memo Olsen had warned that “without intervention”, Eskom’s primary energy generation faced “collapse”, and would not be able to “meet current needs, much less future requirements”.

“Olsen’s memo, like the confidential report we are now releasing, demonstrates that Eskom received ample warning of the serious coal supply problems it faced, were presented with steps to remedy the situation, but appeared to do little to respond, other than to fire Olsen,” Schmidt said.

In the Olsen memo, reference was made to how Eskom’s lack of experience and failure to understand coal markets played a significant role in its later supply problems, and how Eskom’s “haemorrhaging [of] talented staff” had left the power utility lacking “leadership, experience, knowledge and direction”.

“Now we have in our possession a report from Eskom’s own Corporate Technical Audit Department, which confirms exactly these points,” Schmidt said.

He said the report highlighted an “astonishing” 50% vacancy rate in Eskom senior management—or E band level positions—and warned that these human resource deficiencies risked the effective procurement of coal supplies.

The reported stated that “filling of these positions is essential to securing of coal supplies and managing the contracts in place” and that Eskom “should review its recruitment strategy and recruiting structures”.

According to Schmidt, the report also revealed serious problems in short and long term coal procurement positions.

“This was in November 2007, just months before the country was plunged into a major electricity supply crisis, when Eskom declared force majeure on January 24 2008,” he said.

“Equally ominously, the report warned that a contract shortfall of approximately 10 megatons existed in 2005 and this will grow to 26 megatons by 2011 and 34 megatons by 2019.”

Schmidt said the growing shortfall from 2008 onwards was of concern.

“Again, the proximity of this warning to the period of load shedding, and the fact that there is little evidence that [Jacob] Maroga acted on these findings, raises serious questions about the Eskom CEO’s handling of the energy crisis.”

Schmidt said the report would be made available upon request.

“It shows very clearly that human resourcing issues were one of the key reasons for Eskom’s coal procurement problems, and that the problem was not being addressed at a pace that was anywhere near sufficient.

“This is yet further evidence that Mr Maroga’s tenure as CEO of Eskom has proved something of an unmitigated disaster, and that he needs to tender his resignation,” Schmidt said.

Eskom could not be immediately reached for comment.—Sapa

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