Source: MyBroadband

Load-shedding continued to plague South Africa this month, and one of the reasons for Eskom’s electricity shortage is the damage caused to burners by poor-quality coal.

Cosatu General Secretary Bheki Ntshalintshali recently said rocks instead of coal were supplied to one of Eskom’s power stations, which caused damage to the burners.

This damage caused unplanned outages and electricity shortages which forced Eskom to implement load-shedding.

An Eskom engineer working at a power station confirmed that poor-quality coal which contains rocks caused serious damage to their equipment.

He added that in December, four of the six turbines at the power station he works at were seized up because of this problem.

“The piping that is supposed to transfer steam to the turbines from the boilers has ruptured due to the wrong grade of coal being used, that contains rocks that have exploded,” he said.

Rocks sold as coal
SABC News recently published photos of rocks which one of Eskom’s suppliers were trying to sell to the power utility as coal.

LontohCoal CEO Tshepo Kgadima told SABC News that the photos came from trucks which tried to deliver these rocks as coal to Eskom’s Hendrina Power Station in Mpumalanga.

“That is not coal. That is a lump of crushed rock which cannot be milled and cannot combust under any circumstances,” said Kgadima.

He said these trucks were thankfully turned away, but added that it highlights the challenges which exist at Eskom’s power stations.

“How is it possible that the power plant operators do not know the geological conditions of the mines where they are supposed to get their coal from?” he asked.

These rocks are shown below.

You could be jailed for lying on your CV

By Tom Head for The South African

The National Qualifications Amendment Bill is not here to play, ladies and gentlemen. The adjustment to the existing legislation comes with some pretty stern updates, which aims to clamp-down on dishonesty from applicants who embellish the truth on a CV.

The South African Qualifications Association (SAQA) will be charged with monitoring the registered qualifications of each citizen in South Africa. That’s quite the task for such a modest regulatory body, but the ANC has voted the move through in Parliament.

What is the National Qualifications Amendment Bill?

Cyril Ramaphosa now has the final say on what happens next – it’ll be his decision on whether the government should plough ahead with the proposals should they remain in power after Wednesday 8 May.

The bill isn’t likely to impact working-to-middle class workers too much, but it will serve as a deterrent to citizens applying for high-profile jobs. Executives, CEOs and even our politicians will be subject to rigorous background checks. If they are found to be lying about their educational history, stiff penalties await:

“Any person convicted of an offence in terms of this act is liable to a fine or to imprisonment for a term of no longer than five years, or to both a fine and such imprisonment.”

“Any person, educational institution, board member or director may be ordered to close its business and be declared unfit to register a new business for a period not exceeding 10 years.”

Lying on your CV could soon be a serious legal issue

The punishment is not retroactive – so if your name is Jacob Zuma or Hlaudi Motsoeneng, you can breathe a sigh of relief. But if Ramaphosa decides to give this the green light, you may well have told your last porkie on a resume.

As IOL report, 97 national qualifications and 95 foreign qualifications were misrepresented between last October and November. That increased the total number of fraudulent applications up to 1 564 over the past 10 years.

The bill also aims to publish a “name and shame” list for those who try and push their luck just a little too far. So, if your CV is looking a little bare at the moment, try and think outside of the box – and not outside of reality.

 

How loadshedding affects your security

By Ntwaagae Seleka for News24

Home owners and businesses have been urged to test their security systems as a matter of urgency and to pay particular attention to the battery back-up systems during load shedding periods.

“Many people are under the incorrect assumption that their home alarm system is deactivated when the power supply is interrupted. However, if you have a stable and correctly programmed system coupled with a battery that is in good condition, it will continue to protect the premises during a power outage – regardless if the outage is because of load shedding or not,” said Charnel Hattingh, national marketing and communications manager at Fidelity ADT.

The only time it may not function correctly is if there is a technical issue, or the battery power is low.

“Most modern alarm systems have a back-up battery pack that activates automatically when there is a power failure. There are a number of practical steps that can be taken to ensure security is not compromised during any power cuts.

“Some of these include ensuring that the alarm system has an adequate battery supply, that all automated gates and doors are secured and lastly to remain vigilant and report any suspicious activity to your security provider or the South African Police Service,” said Hattingh.

With the added inconvenience of the lights going out at night due to power cuts, candles and touch-lights are handy alternatives.

Home owners are also advised that it is important that their alarm systems have adequate battery supply and that batteries should be checked regularly. Alarms should be checked during extended power outages to keep systems running.

Power cuts can affect fire systems and fire control systems, so these also need to be checked regularly. The more frequent use of gas and candles can increase the risk of fire and home fire extinguishers should be on hand.

People are urged to remain vigilant during power cuts and be on the lookout for any suspicious activity and report this to their security company or the police immediately.

Hattingh said home and business owners should consider installing Light Emitting Diode (LED) technology, which is integrated into the alarm system’s wiring and automatically switches on for a maximum of 15 minutes when there is a power outage.

“If there is an additional battery pack, the small, non-intrusive LED lights can stay on for the duration of the power outage – or a maximum of 40 hours – without draining the primary alarm battery. Because of load shedding, there might also be a higher than usual number of alarm activation signals received by security companies and their monitoring centres.

“This could lead to a delay in monitoring centre agents making contact with customers. You can assist by manually cancelling any potential false alarms caused by load shedding, and thus help call centre agents in prioritising the calls needing urgent attention,” said Hattingh.

 

By Ferial Haffajee for Fin24

Eskom and government have started planning for Stage 5 and Stage 6 load shedding, according to officials who say that there is a race against time to ensure that a national blackout and grid collapse does not happen.

Stage 5 and Stage 6 load shedding imply shedding 5000 MW and 6000 MW respectively.

For businesses and residential consumers, it means more frequent cuts of the same duration, depending on where you live and who supplies your power.

Eskom’s website also contains load shedding schedules up to Stage 8 but has not implemented stages beyond Stage 4.

At the first major briefing to explain the fourth day of Stage 4 power cuts, Minister of Public Enterprises Pravin Gordhan said that the government and Eskom were determined not to go beyond Stage 4 load shedding where 4000 MW has to be shed in long and regular blackouts to business and residential consumers.

But it is now clear that there is planning to Stage 5 and Stage 6 in order to ensure that there is no national blackout.

“It will be a huge struggle to overcome this crisis,” said Gordhan.

An extensive briefing by Eskom executives and the Department of Public Enterprises on Tuesday has made it clear that the national power supply is more precarious than previously understood. South Africa has bought all available diesel on the high seas (to run emergency power), maintenance of power plants is in crisis because boiler tubes are bursting at eight units across three power stations and there is a planned strike early in April.

What does this mean for you?

Load shedding is here to stay and possibly at extended lengths now being experienced across the country. In addition, Eskom is in dispute with the National Energy Regulator with SA (Nersa) on its calculation of the Regulatory Clearing Account and it wants to be able to implement higher tariff increases.

Nersa gave Eskom much lower additional tariff clearances than it requested, but these already added four percentage points to the allowable tariff of just above 9% for 2019/20. Is there light? A little.

On Thursday, a ship with diesel stocks will dock and this supply will ease the crisis; in 10 days, the government will report back with a deeper diagnosis of South Africa’s power woes.

All that government could really offer on Tuesday is that there will be better communication of the crisis with the public and an effort to design blocks of blackouts friendlier to life and the economy.

“We are very far from a point of total black-out. The system operators main task is to defend and protect the grid,” said Eskom chairperson Jabu Mabuza in a briefing designed to shed light after four days of load-shedding which has left the economy teetering and the nation seething.

“We don’t want to remain in a vicious cycle where load-shedding shifts to other crises (like a water crisis because plants go down in power cuts). We are committed to rebuilding the energy supply and energy confidence,” said Gordhan. One of the reasons for the latest power crisis is that it takes too long to buy the parts Eskom needs to maintain its power station fleet, said Mabuza.

The government will be going to the National Treasury to seek an opt-out of strict procurement laws to provide for emergency and faster purchasing.

“We are talking to the Treasury, to the Auditor-General to design processes very quickly to enable Eskom to be more responsive. (But we will) make sure no malfeasance is allowed during that process. People will try to take the gap. We will make sure it doesn’t happen,” said Gordhan who earlier revealed that 3000 staff at Eskom are doing business with the utility.

An estimated 1000 of the moonlighters have been identified.

Staff trading with Eskom is a conflict of interest which has driven up prices and is one factor in the debt pile that Eskom is carrying.

Mabuza also disputed a growing narrative by former executives of Eskom who use social media to disseminate a view that independent power producers (IPP’s) of renewable energy are responsible for the utility’s financial woes and for load-shedding.

“The board has asked me to say it is not appropriate to keep quiet about the IPP’s. In the revenue determination of what is allowable, there’s a budget of R30bn for IPP’s. In so far as Eskom is concerned, what we buy on IPP’s we recoup from the tariff. We are neutral as far as Eskom is concerned – we pass it onto the consumer. If we spend more than R30bn we get it back through the RCA (the regulatory clearing account). We have many problems at Eskom; IPP’s are not the cause of our problems,” said Mabuza.

“We fully understand that frustration and we want to apologise. At the same time, I want to appeal for understanding [in terms of] the nature of the challenges,” said Gordhan who did not give a deadline of when the deep and long load-shedding will stop.

He appealed for understanding from the country and said that South Africans should conserve as much electricity as possible. Eskom will reintroduce its programme of buying spare capacity from industrial users who may not need all the energy they are producing at private power stations.

South Africa has 48000 megawatts of installed energy but it only currently has 28 000 megawatts available daily, causing the gaping deficit that leads to ricocheting power cuts.

There are three senior fix-it teams working on the problem, said Gordhan. A presidential task team has presented one report to Cabinet; the Eskom board and management have presented their own 9-point turnaround plan and there is a team of between 12 and 14 private sector engineers combing through the Eskom power stations to present their own diagnostic report of what is going wrong.

Asked if too many cooks did not spoil the broth and whether government risked throwing structures at the problem, Gordhan said the power crisis needed more rather than fewer eyes on the problem or the risk of groupthink (where people begin to think alike and no longer question each other’s assumptions or points of view) was high.

“There is an eagerness and determination to get to the bottom of what the problems are. To answer the question: ‘How long will load-shedding last’? We will come back to you in 10 to 14 days. We have no magic formula. There is no magic wand to say load-shedding is over. It will be a huge struggle to overcome this crisis. We want to give the public as much information as possible,” said Gordhan.

In the parking lot of the hotel in which the briefing was held, a generator droned loudly. Rosebank in Johannesburg faced Stage 4 load-shedding for the entire period of the briefing – a graphic display of the crisis being described.

Several European banks have been drawn into money-laundering allegations centered on dirty Russian money. Much of the information has been made available to media outfits by The Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, or OCCRP. Investigations into the scandal are under way in the Baltic nations, the US, the UK and the Nordic countries. Below is a list of the main banks touched by the scandal.

Danske Bank A/S

Denmark’s biggest bank admitted in September that much of about $230bn that flowed through its tiny Estonian unit between 2007 and 2015 was probably suspicious in origin.

The lender is being investigated by the U.S. Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission, as well as by authorities in Denmark, Estonia, the U.K. and France.

Swedbank AB

Swedish broadcaster SVT alleged that almost $6bn in suspicious transactions flowed between Danske Bank and Swedbank in 2007-2015, linking the Swedish bank to Danske’s $230bn money-laundering scandal.

The bank is being investigated by the financial supervisory authorities of Sweden and Estonia. It’s also being probed by Sweden’s Economic Crime Authority for allegedly breaching insider information rules.

Nordea Bank Abp

The biggest Nordic bank allegedly handled about €700m in potentially dirty money, with funds arriving from failed Lithuanian bank Ukio Bankas and heading to shell companies in countries such as the British Virgin Islands and Panama, according to Finnish broadcaster YLE.

Investor Bill Browder filed complaints with Nordic authorities in October alleging $405m of suspicious funds flowed via the bank. Sweden decided not to investigate but Finland has yet to say if it will.

Deutsche Bank AG

More than $889m went from accounts at Deutsche Bank to those of the so-called “Troika Laundromat” between 2003 and 2017, according to German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung—part of the OCCRP journalist group.

The report comes on top of regulatory scrutiny of Deutsche Bank’s role as a correspondent bank in Danske Bank’s money-laundering scandal and a probe by German prosecutors of its involvement in a tax-evasion scheme unmasked by the Panama Papers in 2016.

Raiffeisen Bank International AG

The Austrian bank that’s among the biggest foreign lenders in Russia is the main target of a filing by the Hermitage Fund, detailing $634m allegedly transferred to it from Lithuania’s Ukio Bankas and from the Estonian unit of Danske Bank. Hermitage said the bank ignored signs that should have triggered money-laundering prevention measures.

Raiffeisen has launched an internal probe, yet also points out that Hermitage has filed similar allegations before and that they were dismissed by Austrian authorities.

ABN Amro Group NV

The Troika Laundromat moved about €190m through a unit of the Dutch bank that became part of Royal Bank of Scotland, Dutch newspaper Trouw and magazine De Groene Amsterdammer reported. All assets, data and clients of the unit became the legal responsibility of RBS in February 2008, ABN said.

The Dutch financial crimes police declined to comment on whether it was investigating the bank.

Cooperatieve Rabobank U.A.

About €43m were paid to the Rabobank account of Dutch yacht builder Heesen for construction of two boats for Russian senator Valentin Zavadnikov, according to newspaper Trouw and magazine De Groene Amsterdammer. The money came from the Troika Laundromat scheme, the media outlets said.

The Dutch financial crimes police declined to comment on whether it was investigating the bank.

ING Groep NV

The Dutch bank’s branch in Moscow worked until 2013 with a client who it suspected of involvement in money laundering, the media outlets said.

The Dutch financial crimes police declined to comment on whether it was investigating the bank. ING last year paid $900m to end a Dutch money-laundering probe.

Turkiye Garanti Bankasi A.S.

The Dutch unit of the Turkish bank processed €200m in transactions that came from two Lithuanian banks that were at the center of the Troika Laundromat, the Dutch media outlets reported.

It wasn’t immediately clear if it was being investigated.

By Raymond Brown for Cambridge News

A secretary sold £48 000 of office supplies bought on a company credit card on eBay and told police she “got a buzz from treating her family and friends to nice things they could not afford”.

Jessica Prince, 35, of North Brink, Wisbech, was suspected of fraud after her employer’s accountant received an invoice from an unregistered supplier.

Prince had been selling ink cartridges and other office supplies purchased on her company credit card for a profit using her personal eBay account.

She has been jailed for 20 months.

How Prince’s scheme worked
Her scheme was discovered after it was found that the company had spent more than £48,000 on ink cartridges and other office equipment in the space of seven months, with invoices being doctored to conceal what was actually being ordered.

Prince had been employed as the company director’s personal secretary and was responsible for the smooth running and administration of the company office, including ordering stationery, office furniture, booking taxis, flights and hotels.

An internal investigation revealed Prince had been abusing her position to make large purchases but hiding it from the company director and accountant.

Prince was arrested on July 26 last year and in interview admitted having used her company’s credit card to purchase items and then sell them on for profit.

Officers were told it started off as a mistake after she accidentally purchased the wrong printer toner and was told it was non-refundable. She claimed she was told to sell it through eBay and give the money back to her company. She used her own personal eBay account to sell the toner but kept the money.

This was the first of many instances, placing bigger orders worth thousands of pounds on the company credit card, selling them on for a profit using her personal eBay account.

Prince told officers she “got a buzz from treating her family and friends to nice things they could not afford” but “felt like scum at work because she knew she was committing fraud”.

PIC has 15 days to recoup AYO billions

By Sibongile Khumalo for Fin24

The PIC says it has appointed Gwina Attorneys to assist it in recovering the R4.3bn capital it invested in AYO Technology Solutions.

The state asset manager confirmed on Tuesday that it was issued a compliance notice on February 21 which requires it to recover the capital investment made to AYO within 15 business days of the date of the notice, and provide the commissioner of the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC) with confirmation.

According to the notice, it must also recover any interest that may have accrued on the investment within six months.

The CIPC stated that based on the available turnover figures, the PIC did not act in good faith and in the best of interest of the company when “it decided to invest the disproportionate amount of R4.3bn in AYO”.

The watchdog added that the PIC failed its fiduciary responsibility and put the PIC in jeopardy. According to the CIPC, failure to comply with the notice may result in prosecution, with a maximum fine or 12 months imprisonment.

The PIC said it was looking into the matter.

On Tuesday afternoon, AYO said it believed there were no grounds for the CIPC to order the PIC to recoup its investment in the company.

It said it had not seen the compliance notice, but added that it believed the notice was possibly influenced by a disinformation campaign of “media houses and individual journalists”.

In a notice to shareholders on Tuesday afternoon, AYO said: “Both the PIC and AYO should have been consulted and had sight of the notice.”

It added: “AYO further believes that CIPC, by failing to inform and provide it with a copy of the Notice to the PIC, has acted contrary to the provisions of the Promotion of Administrative Justice Act.”

The CIPC was established under the Companies Act to assist with registering companies, monitoring disclosure of information on business registers, licencing business rescue practitioners, and monitoring compliance with relevant financial legislation, among other things.

AYO is linked to businessman Iqbal Survé, the executive chairman of Independent News Media, who holds an indirect stake in AYO through African Equity Empowerment Investments. Survé once described Matjila as a friend, according to evidence by PIC Assistant Portfolio Manager, Victor Seanie.

15 000 CCTV cameras coming to Jo’burg

Source: Vumacam

Vumatel unveiled its CCTV platform Vumacam this week, which it hopes will help make South Africa’s streets and neighbourhoods safer.

The Vumacam system is initially only available in Johannesburg, and currently consists of 889 cameras covering 48 suburbs.

There are 917 camera poles installed around the city, however, which when fully populated will hold over 3 000 cameras.

The video feeds from Vumacam’s CCTV system are then made available to security companies for a monthly fee, depending how many cameras they would like access to.

Vumacam is also in discussions with the police and car tracking companies to provide their CCTV feeds, it said.

How Vumacam works
Vumacam’s business model is based on providing its video feeds to security companies and enforcement agencies for a subscription fee, which is based on how many cameras they want access to.

Vumacam assembles and installs the CCTV cameras in the areas it rolls out to, ensuring there is adequate coverage and the quality of the video feed is up to its standards. Its “video as a service” is then open to companies after they have been heavily vetted.

This means that multiple security companies can subscribed to the same camera feed, and if a new security company is hired by a resident’s organisation, for example, it can access the vendor-neutral CCTV infrastructure.

Vumacam said its CCTV system transfers its UHD feed via fibre connections to Teraco’s data centre. From there, it can be distributed to security control rooms which have subscribed to their service.

Security companies have the ability to view the feeds they have access to, lay intelligent software on top of the feed to make footage processing quicker and easier, and rewind their feeds to look back at certain places at certain times.

Vumacam emphasised that the companies cannot download the footage, however, and footage is only stored on their system for 30 days.

“Data is securely stored in a Tier 3 data centre, which is accessed by a secure connection. This ensures it is not subject to interference and not at risk of local disturbance.”

It added that 96% uptime for its systems is guaranteed, unless an issue is beyond its control – such as extended load-shedding.

In terms of regulation, Vumacam said their system is POPI Act compliant and meets the most stringent privacy requirements.

Software
Where Vumacam’s system really stands out from your standard CCTV camera installation, however, is its advanced software features.

It not only provides a live feed from cameras, but also serves licence plate recognition (LPR) services, exception alerts, and the ability to isolate elements in an area.

The LPR functionality does as its name suggests, and every vehicle passing an LPR camera is checked against multiple databases – including SAPS-listed stolen vehicles.

The “exception” notifications allow incidents to be surfaced to a security command centre, such as a vehicle illegally dumping in a park, which means operators do not need to watch hundreds of screens the time looking for potential crimes.

Software can also be laid on top of the video feed which allows security operators to search for specific objects during a set time period – such as a red car on a particular street on a Wednesday. This makes investigating incidents reported after the fact much quicker and easier.

Expansion
Vumacam said it plans to expand across Johannesburg in the next 12 months, with a rollout from Braamfontein in the south to Woodmead in the north.

This will consist of 15,000 cameras when complete and R500-million has been allocated for this expansion.

Zuma’s second term cost SA R470bn

President Jacob Zuma’s second term cost SA’s economy R470-billion, Nedbank chief economist Dennis Dykes told Business Day on Tuesday.

The former president is said to have cost SA the following during his second term:

  • R470bn of GDP stemming from corruption, maladministration and misguided policies
  • R140bn in estimated lost tax revenue
  • A subsequent reduction in the budget deficit in 2019 to about 2.4% of GDP (currently at a projected 4%)
  • A reduction in government debt to R250bn: less than 49% of GDP versus 56% of GDP
  • The South African economy could have been up to 30% (R1-trillion) larger
  • The economy could have created 2.5-million more jobs
  • The government could have collected R1-trillion more in tax
  • The government could have minimised Eskom’s debt, which is R419bn by comparison.

Researcher reveals Eskom data leak

By Charlie Osborne for Zero Day 

In what may be a case of “if we ignore it, it will go away,” South Africa’s largest electricity company has become the subject of the public exposure of customer data after ignoring researcher pleas to resolve the problem.

Eskom is South Africa’s state-owned electricity company which generates approximately 95 percent of the region’s electricity, as well as roughly 45 percent of all of the electricity used across the African continent.

On Tuesday, cybersecurity researcher Devin Stokes sent a public tweet to Eskom which appears inlaid with frustration at non-communicativeness from the electricity provider.

Stokes said, “You don’t respond to several disclosure emails, email from journalistic entities, or Twitter DMs, but how about a public tweet? This is going on for weeks here. You need to remove this data from the public view!”

The following image contains a screenshot of what appears to be customer and service-related data, including account IDs, start and end service dates, and meter information:

Several hours later, Stokes published a further screenshot with a live timestamp, commenting, “OK. It got worse.”

It appears that this database entry contained some of the financial data of a customer, including name, card type, a partial card number, and CVV, the three-digit security code which is required for purchases in-person or online.

According to the researcher, the electricity provider has left its billing software database exposed, lacking so much as a password.

The most recent customer estimates available, published in 2016, claim that Eskom accounts for roughly 5.7 million customers across South Africa. It is not known how many customers may have been involved in the reported breach.

However, this may not be the only security failure Eskom needs to grapple with — as one of the company’s own employees may have complicated matters further in their gaming enthusiasm.

In a screenshot posted by MalwareHunterTeam, another Twitter user warned Eskom of the existence of a Trojan on one of their networked, corporate machines. The user reported that the Trojan infected the machine through a fake SIMS 4 game installer.

The Twitter user, going under the handle “@sS55752750,” added that the offending employee is a “senior infrastructure advisor.”

While there has been no news on the exposed database, Eskom did thank the researcher who disclosed the Trojan’s existence, saying, “This has been investigated and the necessary actions have been taken. Thank you for bringing it to our attention.”

“Accidental breaches of this type further drive home the point that every company should have a formal process to accept vulnerability reports from external third parties,” Jon Bottarini, Lead Technical Program Manager for HackerOne told ZDNet in response to the news. “Exposing the vulnerability details on Twitter seems to have been the last-ditch attempt on behalf of the security researcher to try and get in contact with someone who can resolve the issue.”

Eskom told ZDNet that the company is “conducting investigations to determine whether sensitive Eskom information was compromised as a result of this incident,” but will not comment further until the investigation has been concluded.

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