The swift action taken by the Department of Trade and Industry regarding possible manipulation of tests at the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) related to Eskom’s procurement of coal from the Brakfontein/Tegeta mines was welcomed today by the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Trade and Industry.
The initial information regarding SABS’s approval of the coal was mentioned during the work of another Committee of Parliament during the Inquiry into Eskom. That Committee heard that as over 50% of the coal from the Tegeta mine was non-compliant, the contract was suspended. A witness testified that the suspension was later lifted after tests done by the SABS.
Portfolio Committee on Trade and Industry Chairperson, Ms Joanmariae Fubbs, said she had become aware that since this evidence, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has investigated the matter and that senior management of SABS uncovered a possible case of collusion and/or manipulation of SABS processes that occurred at the SABS laboratory in Mpumalanga. The Minister had then requested the Board of SABS to conduct a full forensic investigation into this possible breach.
I became aware that preliminary information from SABS shows a clear breach of established protocols and that the tests conducted for the Brakfontein/Tegeta coal was irregular in a number of aspects.
Ms Fubbs said it is concerning that Eskom appears to have used these ‘irregular test results to justify lifting the suspension of the Tegeta coal. A two-way test was used instead of the normal process of a three-way test. There was also no independent verification that the samples came from Tegeta as the samples were delivered by hand directly to the laboratory and representatives from the mine insisted on remaining whilst tests were conducted, which is another breach of protocol.
The Chairperson welcomes the Minister’s speedy action in this regard. The Chairperson is extremely concerned about the preliminary finding. Parliament does not tolerate the flouting of processes or regulations, said Ms Fubbs.
Ms Fubbs urged for the suspension of all individuals implicated in the initial investigations with more severe actions once the investigation is concluded. I have written to the Minister and indicated that the preliminary findings will be brought before the full complement of the Committee for discussion at its sitting on Tuesday.
Source: Parliament of the Republic of South Africa