Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane is investigating allegations of improper conduct and maladministration by power utility Eskom for alleged irregular and unlawful awarding of renewable energy contracts to Independent Power Producers. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

THE Public Protector advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane will hold a week of hearings as part of an investigation into the awarding of contracts to independent renewable power producers.

The probe was established in 2019 after a complaint by a nongovernmental organisation that alleged “improper conduct and maladministration” by Eskom Holdings and the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy, the Public Prosecutor’s spokesperson Oupa Segalwe said in a post on Twitter.

These evidence sessions come after the public protectors office received a complaint from non-governmental organisation, Anti-Poverty Forum alleging that Eskom executives concluded Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) with the Independent Power Producers at the expense of Eskom’s sales and savings.

The complaint alleges that Eskom’s contracts to buy electricity from so-called independent power producers were tainted by corruption and that unidentified senior executives came under political pressure to agree to the terms.

According to the complainant, Eskom is forced to pay R93 million a day to private power producers.

Another grievance from a whistle-blower was received during the course of the investigation.

Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe will be the first to give evidence on Tuesday, Segalwe said.

Speaking during a session held by the public protector for the accused to offer evidence on Tuesday, the Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy, Gwede Mantashe, explained why the contracts were on a 20 year period.

“If you look into the life of power station, irrespective of the source of technology, you will realize that 20 years in energy supply is a relatively short period. Therefore, it is taken into account because you don’t switch it on and off like a tap of water to generate,” said Mantashe.

“Because if you get a contract, you have to construct the facility to generate that energy and therefore you cannot be given a 10-year period because by then end of that 10 you wouldn’t have come close to recovering the cost of constructing the source of that energy.”

The hearings will continue through Friday.

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