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Govt urged to dump Rosatom-linked advisory firm

Jun 30 2016 08:45
Matthew le Cordeur

Cape Town – Earthlife will on Thursday picket outside the offices of an advisory firm with links to South Africa’s nuclear build programme and Rosatom.

Earthlife Africa (ELA) Johannesburg said the picket outside the WorleyParsons South African head office was due to the close links the company has with Russian nuclear energy company Rosatom, after it was revealed WorleyParsons was advising the Department of Energy (DoE) on its funding strategy for the nuclear programme.

ELA Johannesburg wants the DoE to “rescind its decision to contract WorleyParsons because it is a conflicted party by its relationship with Rosatom”.

In addition, it wants the DoE to “make public the scope of WorleyParsons’ appointment and at what cost to the South African taxpayer”.

ELA, together with Southern African Faith Communities' Environment Institute (Safcei) have taken the DoE to court over what it believes is a done deal with Rosatom.

Their main evidence for this is the state law adviser’s explanatory memorandum that was prepared in November 2013. They say “it is evident that the Russian agreement is to build reactors and an enrichment plant".

Officially, the nuclear build programme has yet to pick a vendor. Both Rosatom and the DoE strongly deny any form of corruption has occurred.

A government gazette over the Christmas period in 2015 pushed the nuclear plans to the next level, but has stalled at the point of releasing the request for proposals, which was planned to be released at the end of March 2016.

President Jacob Zuma told the nation in February that South Africa “will procure nuclear energy on a scale and pace that the country can afford”.

Rosatom told Fin24 this week that it works with various consultants when implementing its projects across the globe.

“Rosatom is ready to work with any qualified consultants which are selected by the local nuclear new build stakeholders in a specific region,” it said.

DoE deputy director-general Zizamele Mbambo told Business Day on Friday that transactional advisers had been appointed for technical, legal, financial and commercial matters. "We’ve got a range of technical advisers with whom we have been contracting. I don’t want to discuss any single company,” he said.

"The important point is that government is giving very high attention to this work. We need to make sure when we issue the request for proposals that we have done our work and it’s been independently reviewed by experts in the field. That is the reason for the transactional advisers," he said.

However, the inclusion of WorleyParsons has sparked fierce reaction from critics.

“The Department of Energy cannot begin to claim transparency and fair dealings while at the same time appointing a company so closely associated with one of the bidders,” said Safcei spokesperson Liz McDaid on Wednesday.

“This unethical behaviour appears to further substantiate our claims that the Russia deal is done and dusted, and the South African people are expected to just suck it up.”

Sysman Motloung, energy policy officer at ELA Johannesburg, said that “evidence from around the world shows that where WorleyParsons is Rosatom is also”.

The groups said that the relationship between the DoE and WorleyParsons “lends further weight to the claims Earthlife Africa/Safcei make in their court case, which is attempting to hold the DoE responsible for its alleged unlawful and biased nuclear dealings”.

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department of energy  |  rosatom  |  nuclear deal

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