Energy Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson has refused to supply the DA with a range of documents related to the government’s nuclear power procurement plans, saying they are privileged, sensitive state documents the release of which “could compromise the new build process”.
Another ground for her refusal is that the requested documents are also subject to the sub judice rule as there is litigation in the High Court in Cape Town in a case brought in October last year by Earthlife Africa and the Southern African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute against the minister and President Jacob Zuma.
The two organisations which are attempting to stop what they say is a flawed and illegal, nontransparent nuclear procurement process, have requested the same information from the government.
The minister’s refusal was contained in a written reply to a parliamentary question by DA energy spokesman Gordon Mackay, who asked for copies of the proposal for the roll-out of new nuclear power plants as signed off by her; the Integrated Nuclear Infrastructure Review by the International Atomic Energy Agency; the terms of reference for the National Nuclear Energy executive co-ordinating committee, its communication and stakeholder engagement strategy and its phased decision-making approach to implementing government’s nuclear programme; and the designation of Eskom as the owner and operator of nuclear power plants in SA.
Mackay said these documents were important to establish whether the government had taken the necessary regulatory steps in deciding to build 9,600MW of nuclear energy plants.
The documents should have been completed well before the minister announced the commencement of the procurement process in December 2015. He suspected there had been significant procedural irregularities that if proven to be true would be grounds for a constitutional challenge to the state’s nuclear plans.
“The minister’s response was completely inadequate. She is hiding behind the thin veneer [of the sub judice rule], when the documents we requested have nothing to do with the court case, but [are] related to process documents which should be in place.”
He said Joemat-Pettersson had once again failed the transparency test despite her promises to be transparent. She had failed to submit the documents either to the court or to Parliament’s energy committee.
The next step would be to make an application for the documents under the Promotion of Access to Information Act, although this would in all likelihood be declined as well.
In a separate request, Mackay asked for copies of the invitation to attend vendor parade workshops that the government had sent to Korea, the US, Russia, France, China, Canada and the UK and the list of topics they had been asked to attend to.
“It cannot be expected of any responsible government to release sensitive Cabinet records and communication between two sovereign states in such a manner.… It should be noted that there was no invitation sent to the UK,” Joemat-Pettersson said. The minister said she would provide the 2004 bilateral agreement between SA and Russia, and the 2013 agreement.
By Linda Ensor. Source: Business Day Live