MPs: Nersa a toothless wonder
Cape Town - MPs laid into the National Energy Regulator of SA on Tuesday, calling it a "toothless wonder" and saying the public had become cynical after its hearings on Eskom's tariff increases.
"Part of the public perception about Nersa is that it is a rubber stamp," Congress of the People MP Philip Dexter said in the briefing to Parliament's portfolio committee on energy.
"If you look at the public process you have gone through, it doesn't matter what people said. We all know the outcome anyway. It's kind of a cynical process we go through.
"We pretend to the poor that they can influence what can happen. We pretend to business... They come and participate in a process, but we all know the outcome."
Dexter told the Nersa members, who included chairperson Cecilia Khuzwayo, that Nersa could be doing a lot more to "position itself differently".
"We all want Nersa to succeed," he said.
"We all understand the significance of Nersa, but at the moment you are a bit of a toothless wonder."
Independent Democrats MP Lance Greyling said he had heard one presenter complain she had come to Nersa time and time again, but that her presentation had "basically been disregarded".
"Clearly you don't want to waste people's time. If you aren't able to engage and take those things on board, then it needs to be made clear to the public what your scope is and what can be entertained and what can't."
IFP MP Eric Lucas said he did not know whether the money spent on hearings was necessary.
"I honestly believe this decision was going through the motions," he said.
Can't do much
Nersa announced in February that it was granting Eskom a 24.8% tariff increase for 2010, 25.8% for 2011, and 25.9% for 2012.
Nersa member Thembani Bukula defended holding the hearings, but admitted the regulator was powerless in many areas.
"The hearings are necessary because we get to hear the things we need to hear. Most of the suggestions that people have made, like increasing free basic electricity, even if we wanted to we would not be able to.
"Even if we wanted to impose a tax we would not be able to. Even if we wanted to say Eskom must go get more money from government, we would not be able to do that. The shareholder minister is one who can do that."