Public Enterprises Minister Barbara Hogan has called for new regulations to resolve how political parties are funded, the state BuaNews agency reports. This follows the controversy surrounding the governing African National Congress’ investment firm Chancellor House and its 25% stake in Hitachi Africa, which is contracted to supply boilers to Eskom’s Medupi coal power station project.
“I think what we really need in this country is a common view of how parties should be funded and what their relationship should be in terms of contracting. And I think it would solve a lot of our problems. “So we are calling on Parliament to actually deal with those issues,” said Hogan, while addressing a media briefing ahead of her Budget Vote on Thursday.
She said she agreed with the Minister of Finance Pravin Gordhan who on Wednesday said that any conflict of interest in Chancellor House’s involvement in Hitachi and the Medupi build project, should be addressed. However, Hogan emphasised that there had been no outside influence in Hitachi clinching the Medupi power deal.
The matter is being investigated by the Public Protector and Hogan said she had the report and pointed out that Eskom chair Valli Moosa was remiss in not recusing himself from a particular meeting. Moosa was also a member of the ANC’s national executive and its finance committee
“But the Public Prosecutor found no evidence that the chair had actually influenced the course of that procurement,” she said, adding that Eskom’s own internal audit inquiry also “came out clean”.
Turning to the issue of whether the country was committed sufficiently to renewable energy, Hogan said Eskom through the World Bank loan was in fact leading the largest pilot project on concentrated solar power (CSP) and wind power in Africa. “So as a government, we are serious about our long term low carbon trajectory as well as the commitment we have made on climate change internationally,” she said.
Addressing the recent controversies involving the CEOs and boards of parastatals, Hogan said the department valued its chief executives, but that the government wouldn’t tolerate CEOs that were not accountable to the board, BuaNews said This was an issue of corporate governance which should be addressed “firmly and decisively”, she added. She said due to the recent troubles experienced between the boards of some state-owned firms and the CEOs, many black candidates were afraid their names would be “dragged through the mud”.
Commenting on the downscaling of government’s Pebble Bed Modular Reactor (PBMR), Hogan said there was no uncertainty about the soundness of the technology and pointed out that the US government had nominated the PBMR as a partner in its New Generation Nuclear Programme.
Despite the retrenchment of a number of staff from the entity, she was “confident” that the government would retain critical skills required for the PBMR programme, she said.
“The PBMR has played an indispensable role in shoring up and expanding our nuclear research and design capabilities which can stand us in good stead as we decide on our energy options going forward,” said Hogan. She said an inter-ministerial committee would be making recommendations on the PBMR’s future in the coming months.