S.A: Eskom secrecy to be challenged in court

PUBLISHED: Thu, 10 Nov 2016 16:03:03 GMT
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Following Eskom’s continued refusal to provide EE Publishers with generation performance information, EE Publishers has approached the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA) to assist in its legal quest to obtain the required information.

The information, requested through a Promotion of Access to Information Act application submitted in June 2016, includes information such as the 2016 week-on-week energy availability factor, demand and energy sent out, and is used to analyse Eskom’s performance.

Eskom’s failure to act transparently in providing such data prevents independent analysts and researchers from reviewing and understanding generation performance trends in South Africa, and enables Eskom to hide inefficiencies and present one-sided and misleading information to the public.

Eskom has stonewalled EE Publishers, and effectively refused to provide the requested information, without providing any reasons for doing so. The information requested was previously made publicly available on the utility’s own website for years, but is now no longer accessible.

OUTA’s legal team has drafted court papers that have been issued to the North Gauteng High Court on 19 October 2016 and served on Eskom in order to obtain a court order forcing the utility to release the requested information. Attorneys acting for Eskom have indicated that Eskom intends to oppose EE Publishers’ application.

In communications between Eskom’s information officer and EE Publishers, the information officer stated that the request for information was being considered by an “executive director” of Eskom. The only two executive directors of Eskom are the CEO, Brian Molefe, and CFO, Anoj Singh.

However, no response has since been received from Eskom, which in terms of the Promotion of Access to Information Act is deemed to be a refusal of access to the requested information.

The right to access to information from public bodies such as Eskom by the public and the media is a constitutional right, and forms the basis of the Promotion of Access to Information Act. The ability of the media and the public to effectively assess Eskom’s performance, or that of any government institution, relies on such publicly available information.

“Litigation was a last option to get the information requested. One can’t imagine why Eskom would refuse access to this most basic generation performance data”, says Chris Yelland, managing director of EE Publishers.

EE Publishers and OUTA believe that litigation could easily have been avoided, had Eskom acted reasonably by providing the requested information, as it has done in the past.

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