Energy Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson’s repeated refusal to supply information on Parliament’s nuclear procurement process is to be challenged by Parliament’s energy affairs portfolio committee, which decided yesterday to submit a request to her for all the documents.
The decision follows the legal advice the DA sought from Parliament’s legal advisers, who advised that the minister had no right to refuse to supply documents if so requested by a chairperson of a portfolio committee.
The legal opinion stated that a parliamentary committee had the right to summon any document required for it to perform its functions.
DA energy spokesman Gordon Mackay reported on the legal advice to the committee on Tuesday, saying that Joemat-Pettersson had no right to refuse to provide the documents related to the nuclear procurement, as she had done repeatedly on the grounds that they were privileged, confidential and sensitive.
The portfolio committee unanimously resolved last year that the Department of Energy should provide it with key nuclear procurement documentation including the integrated infrastructure review, the financing option models, the economic impact, localisation and other pertinent documents without this prejudicing the interests of the country.
Earthlife Africa and Southern African Faith Communities Environment Institute have requested a raft of the Department of Energy’s nuclear documents in their legal action against the government for what they say have been irregularities in the legal process surrounding the decision-making on the plan to build 9,600MW of nuclear capacity.
Mackay’s request through parliamentary questions to the minister for the same documents was likewise refused.
Committee chairman Fikile Majola agreed with the legal advice, saying it complied with the Constitution.
He agreed to write to the minister formally requesting the documents, saying the committee was committed to transparency and to holding public hearings on the nuclear programme.
Mackay welcomed the decision, saying that Joemat-Pettersson’s “wriggle room” had diminished and if she refused to provide the documents she would be in violation of the Constitution.
The statement said that over the past five years the government had commissioned independent studies in preparation for the nuclear procurement, including on the cost, a procurement framework, owner-operator and financing structures, finance options, deferred return on government investor approach, economic impact of localisation, a feasibility study on effective independence of the National Nuclear Regulator of SA (Nersa), accession by SA to international nuclear liability conventions, training for nuclear and radiological emergencies; a detailed financing model for the radioactive waste management fund, a feasibility study on the withdrawal of safeguards function from Nuclear Energy Corporation of SA, pre-procurement readiness assessment and a programme management system.