Mr N Singh, MP
Honourable Chairperson, Honourable Minister,
What is music to my ears from what you have just said is the fact that this government is taking very, very seriously the Presidential Review Committee recommendations. I really thought that these were put away in file 13 and would be forgotten like many initiatives that were presented to us in the past 20 years, but I think it’s interesting to note that in considering the PRC recommendations honourable minister, one would be looking at overrating policy that would govern the way SOEs operate moving forward.
I think many of us in this House, except for those of us who read the Presidential Review Committee recommendations, would have realised that there are something like 700 which you mention SOEs in municipalities, provinces and here at national departments and certainly there needs to be some coordinated way in ensuring that they are managed properly. Now one of the areas that we need to look at and I hope that it will arise from these recommendations honourable minister, through you honourable chair, is this ‘arms-length’ approach that we have with SOEs.
Now one understands because of government’s models at the moment that one has to have this ‘arms-length’ approach and a minister and a department cannot directly interfere in an SOE because they have Boards, but that is not helping us. Because when we look at the number of SOEs that are failing us it requires serious intervention by government and it’s not government intervention only, it’s government intervention on behalf of the tax payers.
We own these SOEs so government does have a responsibility to intervene directly, so I hope that this ‘arms-length’ approach that we have is something that we can put behind us as we move forward.
You know honourable chairperson; the honourable minister mentioned some of the successful SOEs we have, and yes we give credit to Denel, we give credit to Transnet and some of the other SOEs but really when you look at South African Express who yesterday announced a R206 million net loss in the 2013 financial year, it doesn’t fill us with hope and whilst we are told that it’s because of under capitalization and other reasons. We still have to grapple with these problems and moving forward show to the public out there that we have confidence in these SOEs carrying out their mandates to be profitable in the long run and not run at a loss all the time.
You know some of these SOEs honourable chairpersons think that government is an ATM whenever they need a bailout they come to this ATM called government and they just withdraw. You know it’s like having an ‘uncle’ in the furniture business. I think you heard about that, and we cannot allow that to go on like forever and forever.
Now, turning to Eskom honourable minister, I don’t want to talk about what Eskom can do and should not do, that’s left with the Energy Portfolio Committee. But seriously we need to know where are we with this commission of enquiry? Well it’s months now and that the CEO who was, by the way your very trusted DG in this department, was suspended together with three other senior people. Where are we at this moment in time? We have been given the terms of reference but maybe you can tell us and when is this enquiry going to be complete, or is it going to be another enquiry where we are going to call off the enquiry and then have a golden handshakes and things like that, and tell people bye-bye and thank you, you have done well? So that’s something that we have to look at.
I am very pleased that NERSA did not positively consider the request for an additional 12% or so increase yesterday and they are going to hold public participation meetings all over. But it is cold comfort, because we must certainly resist any move to bring the increase of electricity to 25% in this year. It is just not affordable for the man in the street. Soweto has already started their protest and we do not want another Soweto uprising because I think what these people of Soweto are doing is expressing what everybody else is saying!
Honourable chair, we will support this budget vote to the extent that your department has a role to play over oversight. Whether there is a need for the department to continue in the medium to the long term or whether some of these SOEs should fall under their ‘mother’ departments is a debate for another day.
Thank you very much!
Hon. Narend Singh, MP, on 083 788 5954
IFP Media, Parliament