LETTER: Looting at Eskom will continue if the culprits enjoy impunity

by | Apr 21, 2023 | General | 0 comments

We must hope the finance minister’s “for now” qualification to the withdrawal of the Eskom exemption from reporting its finances fully is no more than a little spin on a major climbdown (“U-turn on Eskom exemption is just temporary, Godongwana says”, April 5).

The constitutional context applicable militates against any exemptions of whatsoever nature because Eskom is in the grip of grand corruption, state capture and dysfunction of gigantic proportions. That context requires a system of governance for Eskom that is open, accountable and responsive. This much was conceded in the course of the ministerial team’s presentation to parliament in the use of the concepts “transparency” and “consequence management”, together with accountability as the guiding principles.

Under section 195 of the constitution Eskom is obliged to use public resources in a manner that is “efficient, economic and effective”, not wasteful, irregular or unauthorised. In procuring goods and services Eskom is further obliged to use a system that is “fair, equitable, transparent, competitive and cost-effective”, according to section 217.

The Public Finance Management Act puts meat on these constitutional bones. It replaces the apartheid-era Exchequer Act and is the brainchild of the ANC caucus in our first parliament. Unlike privately owned corporations, in which money invested willingly by shareholders is used, Eskom uses public money entrusted to it by the people of SA via parliament. It is for this reason that the more stringent requirements in relation to misspending of any kind are included in the act; even more so now that a further R254bn of public money is being diverted to benefit Eskom.

The observation of most value in the entire debacle was made by the acting director-general of the Treasury, Ismail Momoniat, who pointed out that what is needed is proper law enforcement against those involved in the corruption that is crippling Eskom. Looting will continue while those involved enjoy impunity; it will end when they face a life in orange overalls.

Reform of the criminal justice administration along the lines suggested by Accountability Now is both preferable to exemptions and more effective in getting Eskom back onto an even keel. Without suitable reform, the greylisting of SA will continue to the detriment of all, especially the poor.

Paul Hoffman, SC
Director, Accountability Now

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