The Minister of Minerals, Energy and Water Resources, Kitso Mokaila, told Parliament this week that Aurecon AME Limited and Norton Rose have been contracted following a number of delays, boiler failures and questions on the technical integrity of the plant.
Mokaila said the government and the World Bank agreed that Aurecon should undertake a quick two-week audit of the plant with Norton Rose providing legal advice to address contractual matters on operation and maintenance."Following the Morupule B power plant's audit by Aurecon, which has revealed that there were no fundamental design flaws that could frustrate operation, Norton Rose and Aurecon will be engaged for a seven-month period at an estimated cost of P14.8 million to strengthen the BPC project management oversight," Mokaila said.
He told MPs that the engagement of Aurecon and Norton Rose is just a tactical intervention meant to ensure a firmer project oversight and timely delivery to address the current power crisis in the country. He stated that bringing Aurecon on board would go a long way to reduce government's liquidated damages. In the long term, he added, the BPC board, in consultation with the ministry, has seen the need for the engagement of a reputable international firm to manage BPC on a two-year compact.
This is why the BPC board is in discussions with the Electricity Supply Board International (Pty) Ltd. Mokaila said the original timeline for completion of Morupule B was October 2012. The target dates were not met for various reasons, such as a 2011 truckers' strike in South Africa that delayed movement of equipment from Durban to the site. There was also bad weather in 2010-2012 and problems encountered during commissioning, such as blockages and steam tube leaks on Boiler One and Two respectively.
"The contractor's non-compliance with the Safety, Health and Environmental (SHE) standards in 2012 did also contribute to the delays and the key one being boiler failures, technical integrity and non-compliance with SHE standards which resulted in three fatalities," Mokaila said.
The project was behind schedule, with telling effects on BPC finances as commissioning of the first unit is more than 12 months behind schedule, which puts the technical integrity of the plant in doubt.The minister said in response to the non-conformance, BPC has undertaken various actions to improve safety on site. These include suspending all work at height activities, increasing site verifications, checks on the number of security personnel, appointing a specialised third party firm to erect safe scaffolding and appointing a professional firm to assist in implementation of the SHE plan.
The minister said he was aware that the telling effects brought about by the inordinate delay in bringing the power plant into service have been severe as seen in widespread load shedding across the country. "The problems have been identified and remedial action is being taken, including strengthening the BPC project management staff. I am in continual communication with my South African counterparts on these challenges and their response has been reassuring and positive," Mokaila explained.
He said he has met the CEO of the contractor, China National Electric Equipment Corporation (CNEEC) and Fitchner, the engineers, to express concern on the failure to deliver the plant in time. The minister asserted that he is focused on bringing the power station into service as soon as July 2013.