R150-million “winter challenge” bonanza considered by bankrupt Eskom – Please tell us where you will get the money from?

Cash-strapped Eskom is considering paying its employees a R150-million “winter challenge” bonus for avoiding power cuts, a move that has been slammed by Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown.

The submission comes a month after the power utility reportedly paid R4.2-billion in performance bonuses to staff, and two months after Brown approved bonuses totaling R13-million for its executives, including former CEO Brian Molefe, former chief financial officer Anoj Singh and suspended acting CEO Matshela Koko.

At the end of the 2017 financial year, Eskom had R20-billion in its bank account – enough to see it through three months. In the last financial year it recorded a loss of R870-million and received a qualified audit.

The submission, which the Sunday Times has seen, excludes senior management.

This week Brown said: “I cannot think of any reason to pay bonuses to Eskom employees for doing their job: keeping the lights on. And particularly not in the current economic environment. It is an operational matter and therefore not the shareholders’ call, but I would like to believe Eskom’s interim leadership will take prudent financial decisions.”

The bonuses were initially promised by Koko to staff in Eskom’s Generation division.

In her submission, Eskom’s human resources executive Elsie Pule notes that a special executive committee meeting in June had decided to spread the bonuses across the company and not limit them to Generation staff. She also said the bonus proposal was not supported by Eskom’s board. Should the proposal be approved, Eskom would pay an amount of R149.8-million to be shared among 47,053 employees.

Added to the no-load-shedding requirement was that there be no fatalities and no environmental contraventions.

“The winter challenge bonus is difficult to justify as some of the performance measures are duplicated in the annual short-term incentive scheme and employees were recognised for those measures,” Pule said.

But state utility spokesman Khulu Phasiwe said no decision had been made at the last executive committee meeting, on Thursday. “Yes, a commitment was made to Eskom’s Generation employees. However, no decision was made on the payout of the winter bonus on Thursday,” he said.

Asked if the bonuses were not in effect paying employees to do their job, he said: “Bonuses are usually paid to incentivise excellence in performance. Criteria for people going the extra mile is contracted upfront to avoid incentivising employees for the work they are already paid for.”

The company is believed to be in the process of securing external funding that will carry the organisation to October’s medium-term adjustment budget, where it hopes Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba will announce a financial lifeline.

The DA’s spokeswoman on public enterprises, Natasha Mazzone, said the party had called for the board to stop all bonuses.

“They have only one job, and that is to keep the lights on … They have done nothing extraordinary. Especially at present, we have a surplus of electricity, there is no risk whatsoever of load-shedding.”


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