Energy minister caught in crossfire over nuclear IPP plan

Cape Town – Energy Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson found herself on the wrong side of the political spectrum on Tuesday after she recommended the nuclear programme fall under the independent power producer (IPP) office.

The IPP office is a partnership between the DoE, Treasury and the Development Bank of South Africa. An ANC cabinet member, Joemat-Pettersson also wants the auditor general to form part of the IPP office to ensure even greater transparency and accountability.

The office, which ran the successful renewable energy programme, brought investment totalling R149bn, of which R54bn was direct foreign investment, Joemat-Pettersson told the Portfolio Committee on Energy in Parliament.

“If the IPP programme has delivered such good results, then we believe we are on the right track,” she said.

“We now have an IPP for gas and coal and hence our request to do nuclear along the IPP base.”

ANC MPs Thandi Mahambehlala and Fikile Majola, who is the committee chairperson, raised their concerns over the idea, while DA MP Gordon Mackay fully supported the move.

Mahambehlala, well-known as an outspoken MP after being on the Nkandla ad hoc committee, said this would go against the mandate set by President Jacob Zuma and cabinet, while it would also not be in the interest of national security.

“The nuclear procurement programme is different from the IPP programme as South Africa will have to partner other countries,” she told Fin24.

Majola agreed with her, saying the committee would need to discuss the matter further at its next meeting.

Mackay was alarmed at the ANC’s reaction.

“The DA is deeply disturbed that the ANC chair attempted to block the minister in her proposal that the IPP office head up the nuclear procurement process,” he told Fin24.

He praised the minister for both the proposal to house the nuclear programme under the IPP office and to bring in the auditor general to the office.

“If the nuclear programme goes ahead, the DA will be fundamentally supportive of any transparent and accountable measure, which goes through the IPP office,” he told the committee.

“A fair nuclear deal could only be through the coordination of the IPP office,” he said. “We also believe the auditor general should be part of the process.”

A government gazette released by Joemat-Peterson in December revealed that her department would be the procurement agency. This was initially going to be Eskom’s responsibility, but was moved to the department earlier in 2015.

“The role of the procurement agency will be to conduct the procurement process, including preparing any requests for qualification, requests for proposals and/or all related and associated documentation, negotiating the power purchase agreements, facilitating the conclusion of the other project agreements, and facilitating the satisfaction of any conditions precedent to financial close which are within its control.”

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