Eskom leadership is incompetent – German experts

Eskom’s leadership competencies are not at the required level due to the delay and, in some cases, scrapping of leadership development programmes and employee training. 

This is feedback from the German consultancy group VGBE Energy, which the National Treasury commissioned to analyse the performance of Eskom’s coal-fired power plants and recommend how they can be improved. 

The group comprised German engineers with extensive experience running coal-fired power plants and spent four and a half months studying South Africa’s ailing power utility. 

They pointed to several overarching issues, such as Eskom’s complex management system, inadequate maintenance, and low staff morale, as reasons why the utility’s performance has declined. 

Another factor is the general incompetence and lack of ability to implement theoretical knowledge in practice. 

The experts focused on evaluating the competencies of the technical managers, including plant managers, operating managers, maintenance managers, engineering, and outage managers.

In addition to interviews with management, the assessment also included input from written online tests.

Throughout the assessment, the German experts noticed the impact of low morale, lack of motivation, and a heavy workload with long working hours on Eskom’s staff.  

“The competencies of the technical managers seem to be at a reasonable level, but there is greater potential for improvement,” the report read. 

“We repeatedly noticed that there is a high degree of theoretical knowledge. However, the complex management system makes its application very difficult.” 

“The management system with its governance, structure and processes is dysfunctional and too complex.”

Eskom has too many organisational layers and unclear decision-making processes. This generates a tremendous amount of red tape and a lack of accountability.

“Eskom’s generation fleet has been trapped within this complex management system for so long that it can no longer maintain or improve the technical performance of the coal-fired plants.” 

The main problem with such a complex management system is that it has been unable to implement the solutions to the utility’s problems, which are well known. 

“In general, leadership competencies are not at the required level. In the past, suitable leadership development programmes existed, and these need to be re-established,” the experts said.  

The report noted that many training programmes, including leadership training, have been delayed for several years or scrapped altogether. 

“Training should focus on turning skills and knowledge into competencies.”


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