Cape Town - South African MPs on Tuesday sent officials from the department of energy and members of the Petro SA board packing after they failed to submit a forensic report into the R15 billion loss the state-owned oil company incurred.

Energy department director-general Thabane Zulu and his team had prepared a presentation on the forensic investigation into the multi-billion rand impairment for Parliament's portfolio committee on energy, but MPs rejected the presentation saying they wanted the full report.

“The report that deals with this is currently with the minister which will require some recommendations on the report that will need to be considered and I did raise the concern that to present on this might be slightly problematic having not had an opportunity to fully engage [the] ministry on that report,” Zulu explained.

“However, I felt duty-bound as the accounting officer to this committee to do a presentation that reflects on that report...whilst the other process is taking its course.” But, MPs across the political spectrum were not having it.

Committee chairman Fikile Majola said since it was the committee that directed Energy Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson to commission a forensic investigation into the losses at PetroSA, it was entitled to see and evaluate the report. “We made a recommendation to the minister and we want a comprehensive report so that we can get to the bottom of what happened...,” he said.

“We want a report because we want to get to the bottom of what actually happened, who was responsible for what and then arising out of that to see how we can get the company out of the situation it is in.”

Can’t dictate

Democratic Alliance (DA) MP Gordon Mackay reminded Zulu and the PetroSA board that they did not have right to dictate to Parliament what documentation it was entitled to. “The department does not have the mandate or authority to deny Parliament documentation on the basis that it thinks the minister needs to review or that recommendations need to be finalised. We asked the document as it is for us to review for ourselves,” said Mackay.

Mackay's DA colleague Pieter van Dalen agreed, adding that not tabling the forensic reported created a perception that it would be whitewashed before being presented in Parliament.

“I find it deeply disturbing that last week we were told as a committee that this report was finalised and was ready to be presented to the committee three weeks back already. Now there's this turnaround to say no it's not ready and I think its very, very not on,” said van Dalen. “Now you are creating the perception that this report will be sanitised because you are not prepared to bring it to us, other people still have to look at it and they might want to sanitise it...so that it doesn't look as bad as what it might be.”

African National Congress (ANC) MP Motswaledi Matlala suggested the presentation be shelved and that the energy department and the entire PetroSA board be summoned to Parliament in two weeks to submit the forensic report and provide explanations on the massive losses.

Thandi Mahambehlala, also from the ANC, said the PetroSA board had a lot of explaining to do. “Last time we checked, PetroSA was on the verge of collapse. That was the report that was presented here. Now, they had a turnaround strategy. Have they implemented that turnaround strategy?”

A new date

The committee has scheduled November 1 so that the PetroSA board, Joemat-Pettersson, and her department can submit the forensic report and answer some hard questions about the future of the struggling entity.

In October last year, PetroSA announced it had parted ways with its former CEO Nosizwe Nokwe-Macamo “on mutually acceptable and amicable terms”. A similar agreement was reached with CFO Lindiwe Mthimunye-Bakoro after the two were suspended following the news the company had suffered a R15 billion loss under their watch.

The PetroSA loss of 14.9 billion loss included a R14 billion impairment as a result of Project Ikwezi, a failed attempt to extend the life of the Mossgas plant by drilling new wells. The wells only produced 10 percent of the gas expected.

AFRICAN NEWS AGENCY