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Eskom’s R36m ‘family fun’ splurge

Jul 08 2012 15:00 Athandiwe Saba

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Johannesburg - Eskom blew R36m on parties for its staff and their families last year – enough money to power more than a million poor households with a basic free electricity subsidy for a month.

City Press has obtained copies of the contracts for the spree of bashes last year after filing a promotion of access to information application (PAIA).

The disclosure comes on the back of a 16% tariff hike and flies in the face of President Jacob Zuma’s call on the parastatal to cushion the price blow for consumers.

Earlier this year, critics reacted with shock when a newspaper revealed that Eskom had spent R3m for a family fun day in Cape Town.

But that was only the tip of the party budget.

From October last year, the parastatal spent a staggering R36 504 036.44 on seven “family fun days”.

A key contract for the bulk of the spending, obtained through a PAIA, had the name of the contractor removed because the company would not agree to disclose their identity.

However, City Press has established that Blackmagic Communications was awarded the lucrative main deal, worth more than R35m.

Speaking through its lawyers, the company said: “Blackmagic has nothing further to say than what is contained in the documents provided to you by Eskom.”

They complained they had not been given enough time to respond to questions.

The first contract, worth more than R4m, was awarded for planning and organising five “generation family days”, catering for almost 12 000 people in Gauteng.

The contract also involved organising two fun days for staff in eMalahleni (Witbank), worth more than R10m, and others in Lephalale, valued at nearly R5m.

The Cape Town fun day in March – which cost R3.4m and which caused a sensation when it was revealed earlier this year – was in fact the second for Eskom in the region over the last year.

The first family fun day was held last November and was worth close to R5m.

Another fun day held in Durban cost a further R1m and was contracted separately.

On top of the millions spent on the contracts, nearly R500 000 more was spent by Eskom to hire buses and taxis for employees, to hire the grounds of the University of Western Cape, a five-day stay at the Protea Hotel in Cape Town, face painting and bingo in Durban, and buying 180 burgers and drinks at a roadside cafe outside Cape Town.

The eMalahleni-region fun day included performances by artists including Teargas, Liquid Deep and Cash Time.

Lemias Mashile, deputy president of the South African Civic Organisation, said these millions spent on parties was an insult to the poor.

“There is no logical linkage of misusing so much and (then for Eskom to) cry for increased electricity tariffs,” he added.

Paul Crankshaw, the deputy chairperson of the National Consumer Forum, said: “This sounds to us like a strange way of motivating staff and encouraging teamwork.

"Sound and professional management on every level – to build capacity and accountability – is what motivates and raises morale in the long-term, not family picnics.”

Hilary Joffe, Eskom’s spokesperson, said fun days were to thank employees for hard work and a commitment to “keeping the lights on”.

She added that “surveys conducted by HR had shown an upward trend in morale and pride in belonging to the division”.

- City Press
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