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Johannesburg - A lighting firm has taken Eskom to the Competition Commission and is suing the parastatal.
A complaint has also been referred to the public protector by the Department of Public Enterprises regarding potential wasteful expenditure by Eskom of hundreds of millions of taxpayers’ money.
Magnitech is the sole distributor of the Japanese brand EYE xenon-sodium lamps, a product Eskom has been using in its power stations for more than 20 years.
In 2008, Eskom put out official bid documents through its procurement subsidiary, Roshcon, requesting a quotation for the lighting at the Medupi power station. In the RFQ (request for quotation), there was a paragraph about the xenon-sodium lamps that Magnitech says denigrated the product by lying about its work life, effectively excluding it from competing for the xenon sodiums tender.
The paragraph reduced the manufacturer’s certification of 24 000 hours of useful life of the xenon lamp by a third to 16 000 hours, and more than doubled its lumen depreciation factor (the measurement by which light output is measured).
“This statement was disseminated to almost the entire electrical consulting, engineering and contracting base in SA,” Magnitech said in its complaint to the Competition Commission.
“This false statement effectively made the lamp completely uncompetitive in relation to standard high-pressure sodium lamps known to the market.”
Magnitech’s managing director, Howard Page, said the offending paragraph had also led to a dramatic decrease in the sale of the xenon-sodium lamps, which he said were among the most energy-efficient lights for industrial and mining purposes.
Eskom then tasked Roshcon to take down and destroy all the tens of thousands of xenon lamps that were used by most of the existing Eskom power stations and replace them with much less energy-efficient metal-halide lamps under the guise of increased energy efficiency, Page claims.
He said 110w xenon sodium lamps were over 60 percent more energy-efficient than the 70W metal-halide lamps with which Eskom plans to replace the xenons. They also have about three times the lifespan of the 70W metal-halides.
Eskom-initiated forensic investigations showed there was no basis for the flawed statement in the RFQ. “The paragraph has still not been deleted,” said Page.
The Public Enterprises Department has referred the lighting company’s complaint to the Public Protector. In a letter, the Protector said they were “mindful that such conduct at a state-owned company is disconcerting and must be addressed”.
Magnitech has launched a high court civil claim for the loss of lamp sales, and also filed an abuse-of-dominance complaint with the Competition Commission last year.
Eskom spokesman Andrew Etzinger declined to comment, but the parastatal will be defending the matter. - The Star