Eskom engineer let silo collapse for big repair contract – Report

South Africa’s latest round of load-shedding was allegedly caused in part by the failure of equipment designed by the family member of a senior Eskom manager.

The City Press reported that Rula Bulk Materials Handling was appointed by Eskom to fix broken conveyor belts at Medupi power station.

These belts were confirmed by Rula Bulk managing director Roelf Odendaal to have been supplied by his company and two other contractors.

Roelf is the brother of Eskom engineering general manager Danie Odendaal, who was suspended in December 2018 due to an alleged conflict of interest involving Rula Bulk.

Roelf insisted that it was Eskom’s fault, rather than Rula Bulk’s, that Medupi has been suffering issues with its conveyor belts.

“There has been one incident which occurred due to the removal of the safety protections by Eskom operators,” said Roelf.

He said there are many reasons these conveyor belts can trip, but it is usually because of insufficient maintenance.

“Rula has assisted with repairs on one of the Medupi belts. The task was completed in less than a week,” said Roelf.

Allegations of corruption

An anonymous report has also surfaced this week which alleges that private companies have captured Eskom’s engineering department.

The report alleges that senior Eskom managers manipulated Eskom’s systems to provide companies of their choice with important information – which was used to prepare for Eskom tenders.

A notable example in the report alleges that a senior civil engineer at Eskom deliberately let a silo at Majuba power station collapse so that a connected company would be given an emergency contract to fix it.

“The engineer failed to produce a report alerting the executive committee to the dangers of the Majuba silo, but instead plunged the country into load-shedding, thus presenting the opportunity to not go out on a bidding process under the guise of an emergency,” said the report.

“The engineer deliberately kept quiet about the structure which was hanging precariously so that it could be deemed an emergency.”

Odendaal denies claims

Following the report, Roelf Odendaal shot down associated claims that Rula Bulk was involved in “capturing” Eskom’s engineering department.

“Every contract that was awarded to Rula followed a specific ethical protocol of scrutiny through regular and transparent processes where many Eskom employees were involved, and competitive tender negotiations which can be substantiated by the minutes of the meetings,” he said.

“All contracts awarded to Rula were based on an open public tender process and Rula always had to compete against three to six and sometimes more competitors.”

He said he did not disclose his relationship with his brother because to the best of his knowledge, Danie was not involved in tender negotiations.

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Eskom engineer let silo collapse for big repair contract – Report