This week Premier Alan Winde wrote to Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana, on behalf of the Western Cape Government (WCG), objecting to the proposal to exempt Eskom from disclosing its irregular, fruitless, and wasteful expenditure in its annual financial statements for 2022/23 and the following two years. The Premier also ventilated his concerns over the exemption bid itself.
Among the key concerns cited by the Premier in his letter are:
- The invitation for comment must comply with the requirements of the Fair Administrative Procedures Regulations, 2002 made under PAJA (“the PAJA Regulations”). PAJA Regulation 18(3)(a) expressly provides that a notice published inviting the public to submit comments must “contain sufficient information about the proposed administrative action to enable members of the public to submit meaningful comments”. The decision in terms of section 92 of the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) to exempt Eskom from disclosure of irregular- and fruitless and wasteful expenditure for a period of three financial years is undoubtedly administrative action.
- As South Africa has spent the majority of 2023 in various stages of loadshedding, it is without question that the life of each resident has been adversely affected by the failings of Eskom. Any measure pertaining to the oversight of Eskom and the preventative measures taken to reduce the scope of corruption at Eskom affects the lives and rights of all residents.
- It is therefore paramount that the public comment process be compliant with the basic tenets of administrative justice.
- Unfortunately, upon review of both the statement released by the Minister and the published invitation for comment, it is apparent that neither document contains sufficient background information or the rationale for the proposed exemption leaving the public without the necessary resources to make meaningful comment.
Premier Winde continued, “As a country that has seen the adverse effects of unchecked corruption and public mismanagement, it is critical that each public institution embeds within its protocols and regulations the principles of good governance and transparency. International best accounting practices place oversight and the accurate recording of all transactions at the very centre of ensuring that institutions work for the good of the public.”
In the letter he added, “Rather than looking to exempt Eskom, the National Treasury should institute further scrutiny and support in rooting out the maladministration and corruption in the institution. I encourage the Minster and the National Treasury to not proceed with the proposed exemption and allow our democratic processes and our parliamentary oversight bodies to protect South Africans and their rights”.
The Premier concluded that should Minister Godongwana and the National Treasury push ahead they should, “withdraw the invitation for comment and re-issue it in a compliant form so as to ensure adherence to the principles of procedural fairness and rationality.”
At his weekly Energy Digicon, Premier Winded remarked, “In an organisation that has questions around its governance, the worst thing in the world to do is give extra governance reprieves and to allow further regression.”
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Western Cape Government: Office of the Premier.