ESKOM chief executive Phakamani Hadebe, left, Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan and Eskom chairperson Jabu Mabuza answer questions from the media in Johannesburg yesterday about load shedding. Itumeleng English African News Agency (ANA)
JOHANNESBURG – Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan said yesterday that the government would allow Eskom to bypass stringent procurement requirements to deal with its operational challenges swiftly.

Gordhan said the government wanted to ensure that the R50billion that the utility would spend on plant maintenance in the next five year was done with little interference from the requirements.

He said the money would be spent on generation, maintenance and distribution.

“We will be talking to the Auditor-General, the National Treasury, the Procurement Officer at the National Treasury to design processes very quickly to enable Eskom to be more responsive to urgent requirements they have, whether its people, parts, services or commodities like diesel,” Gordhan said.

The move comes as Eskom warned that the current load shedding could reach stage 5.

Gordhan said Eskom’s current problems require faster processes.

He said measures would be put in place to ensure the relaxed rules are not abused, adding that Eskom would further lift the moratorium on hiring staff to allow it to bring in key skills.

Gordhan said the government was still grappling with the extent of challenges facing the utility and could not rule out further blackouts in the weeks and months ahead.

Eskom chairperson Jabu Mabuza said Eskom operations had reached a crisis level and would need a “crisis reaction methodology”.

Mabuza said Eskom needed to speed up its turnaround times, as well as people and money, to pay for the things it had to get to address its problems.

“The processes that are there as per the prescripts of our various governance are not geared up for the speed that is now required,” he said. “One of the reasons for the latest power crisis is that it takes too long to buy the parts Eskom needs to maintain its power station fleet.”

Eskom said 17000 megawatts (MW) of the power producer’s 47000MW of installed capacity was not available due to unplanned breakdowns.

The utility said a total of seven power generation units were down due to an increase in boiler tube leaks.

It said it would have a new contract to maintain the boilers by the end of the week.

Energy analyst Chris Yelland said the cancellation of the contract limited Eskom’s ability to maintain the units.

“Once you reinstate a programme, you’ve got to build up data, because you can’t do predictive maintenance on one measurement, as you need to look at trends over time. And if you lost 18 months of data, you need to catch up for the predictive process to work,” Yelland said.

The power utility said it had burned at least 20million litres of diesel by running the open cycle gas turbines as a last resort to meet electricity demand at a cost of almost R5bn.

Chief executive Phakamani Hadebe said Eskom wanted to do away with reliance on short-term contracts to procure coal.

“We are going back to a long-term contract, and we have agreed on a deal. Second, we are going to spend about R10bn in investing on cost plus mines which have been able to produce the kind of coal we need,” Hadebe said.