Majola denies 'closing' PetroSA meeting

Cape Town – National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete said on Thursday that she will look into the reasons why the media and the public were barred from an energy portfolio committee meeting earlier in the week. 

DA Chief Whip John Steenhuisen asked Mbete to consider acting against ANC chairperson Fikile Majola for taking a decision to “close a meeting” on Tuesday where PetroSA’s R14.5bn impairment in the 2014/15 financial year was supposed to be discussed. 

Majola, however, denies that he “closed” the meeting. He told Fin24 here merely asked the media and the board of PetroSA to leave the meeting room so that MPs could get a view on the legality of discussing a forensic report into PetroSA’s losses in camera. 

During the meeting, ANC MPs voted not to view the report in the event that it could be leaked to the public. 

The Democratic Alliance’s Pieter van Dalen, the party’s deputy spokesperson on energy, told Fin24 he is under the impression that the ANC committee members had sight of the forensic report beforehand and for that reason they now pretended that they do not want to see it. 

Majola, however denies this. “Only I saw the report,” he told Fin24. “I’m of the view that there’s nothing serious in the report. It’s no big deal and I’d like to have it discussed in the open, but that’s not for me to decide alone.” 

READ: Forensic report into SA to stay under wraps 

The PetroSA board insisted that the forensic report contained “commercially sensitive information” and for that reason it could only be discussed with members of Parliament and not the public. 

Van Dalen, however, is of the view that the ANC wants to keep the report under wraps because it contains information, which implicates politically connected individuals. “Remember, this is big money. It’s a R14.5bn impairment and if there was anything untoward this will dwarf the shenanigans at other state-owned enterprises.” 

The forensic report deals among other things with the details of Ikhwezi – a project that entails the finding of new gas deposits under the sea off Mossel Bay to feed PetroSA’s Mossel Bay gas-to-liquids refinery.

Three out of the five drilling wells yielded a modest 25 billion cubic feet of gas out of an expected 242 billion cubic feet. 

Project Ikhwezi was expected to deliver the first gas in March 2013, which would have extended the Mossel Bay refinery’s lifespan to 2019. The first deposits however, were only available some 21 months later by December 2014. 

READ: PetroSA fails to deliver on report which cost billions 

A number of top executives were fired due to the botched project.

According to a summary of the report given by the board of PetroSA in October, Project Ikhwezi wasn’t subjected to the required due diligence and corporate management processes because of the urgency to deliver gas to the Mossel Bay refinery.

Van Dalen said the entire project is suspicious. “They put the horse before the cart by laying the pipes under the sea even before they were sure that there had indeed been gas deposits.” 

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