The crisis keeping PMB dark

2017-05-24 13:45
Report reveals factors behind City's Faulty electricity supply.

Report reveals factors behind City's Faulty electricity supply. (Sourced )

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Why has Pietermaritzburg been plagued by so many prolonged, unexpected electricity outages?

An explosive document leaked to The Witness may provide many of the answers to this question.

The Witness can reveal that by their own admission, Msunduzi Municipality has conceded their “poor performance in the provision of electricity service” due to a wide range of factors including ageing infrastructure, the unavailability of vehicles, staff shortages and insufficient budget allocations.

According to a report presented by the general manager of the infrastructure service business unit, Sabatha Nomnganga, at a strategic planning meeting at Didima in the Drakensberg last month, the City’s “aged and obsolete” electricity infrastructure was contributing hugely to regular unplanned and extended power outages and to their staff’s exposure to accidents.

In terms of staff safety, the report highlights a “high rate of serious accidents experienced resulting in fatalities and or disabilities” and admits they are slipping up in terms of health and safety regulations.

Recently there have been power outages in Northdale, Woodlands, the CBD, Hilton, Sweetwaters and other parts of the city that left residents seeing red.

In the report that was leaked to The Witness, Nomnganga said the “obsolete” electrical infrastructure has reached and exceeded its useful service life. “But it is still operated and expected to perform at its best while loaded at full capacity, which may result in accidents,” he said.

Nomnganga said the City was facing huge problems with regards to the availability of cars “that is, the procurement of new fleet and the turnaround times when vehicles are taken for repairs resulting in poor service delivery”.

The City is also facing serious staffing problems.

According to the report there is:

A high vacancy rate;

A non-aligned electricity organisational structure that is restrictive in terms of appointing experienced and skilled specialist functional professionals;

Non-competitive remuneration, which makes it difficult to attract the right competitive and skilled professionals;

Poor succession planning, resulting in their ageing competent and experienced workforce retiring or being medically boarded without adequate skills transfer, which in turn results in an organisational brain drain;

A slow process of filling vacant positions; and

High work pressure and no supporting resources and only one out of four senior managers left at the electricity department.

According to the report, the “extensive” use of contractors to do core operational functions, was also providing the City with another headache.

In the report Nomnganga says there is no plan to build internal capacity to take over the functions of consultants, or to operate the new plant.

He said there is poor management of contractors resulting in poor workmanship by them due to the lack of personnel to manage them.

Other issues raised by Nomnganga include:

The high prevalence of staff misconduct cases and long, drawn-out processes to deal with such cases, resulting in the lack of impact on staff;

The high prevalence of disabling injuries and no proper investigations being conducted to ensure they do not happen again;

Lack of capital funding to address council approved rehabilitation plans; and

High electricity theft and inadequate human resources to deal with it.

Another concerning weakness raised was that there is “non-compliance with the Occupational Health and Safety Act and roads and transportation regulations in that employees are still accommodated on the back of bakkies where there are tools and equipment”. “There are serious consequences should an accident occur.”

Municipal spokesperson Thobeka Mafumbatha did not respond to queries and text messages sent to her.

DA caucus leader Sibongiseni Majola said the continued electricity “crisis” was turning away big businesses.

“No one wants to invest in a city where the infrastructure is unreliable.”

He said the City should take advantage of the 40% capping by Treasury on operating expenditure spending on employee costs.

“Currently Msunduzi is spending only 24% of [its operating expenditure] on staff. Why not take advantage of the 40% ceiling? They need to respond to [Nomnganga’s] request and appoint experienced staff,” he said.

Majola said electricity continued to be one of the City’s highest revenue generators and Msunduzi needed to attend to its electricity problems.


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