Eskom’s internal IT team ‘holds fort’ amid Oracle dispute

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Eskom has embarked on an emergency procurement process to fill in the void left by US enterprise software giant Oracle, which has reportedly withdrawn its technical support services to the power utility amid a nasty contractual dispute between the two.

Yesterday, media reports revealed that as the contract impasse dragged on, Oracle halted its services to Eskom, a move that threatens SA’s electricity supply system.

At the crux of the dispute, according to the power utility, Oracle first claimed it had been underpaid by an amount of approximately R7.3 billion, which underpayment is disputed by Eskom.

Eskom says eventually the amount claimed by Oracle was reduced to just under R400 million.

As far as Eskom is concerned, the amount due to Oracle is approximately R166 million in total, the state-owned company says.

Eskom claims it offered to settle the R166 million, and proposed a verification and court process in order to legally and sustainably resolve the dispute.

When Oracle rejected this approach, threatening to terminate its services, Eskom approached the High Court to compel Oracle, in essence, to continue providing the technical support services for the duration of the agreement until April 2022.

In an interview with Cape Talk yesterday, Eskom spokesperson Sikonathi Mantshantsha confirmed the US enterprise software giant had pulled its support services.

“I can confirm that Oracle’s technical support services have not been available to Eskom over the past week,” he said.

Mantshantsha pointed out that the power utility, which provides over 95% of the electricity used in SA, has now implemented contingency plans to fill the void left by Oracle’s technicians.

“Eskom has previously stated Oracle is in addition or supplementary to Eskom’s internal teams who have been working with the software for more than 20 years. We have activated them, and they are holding the fort at the moment.

“It is necessary to have the technical expertise of companies such as Oracle so that when you have some problems in the software that is provided, you may call on their experts to come and assist. We will continue to require such services and, as such, Eskom has embarked on an urgent procurement process to find the technical skills,” noted Mantshantsha.

Nonetheless, he said so far there has not been a very big impact on Eskom’s operations since Oracle withdrew its services.

Contacted for comment, Gaurav Bhatnagar, Oracle senior director of corporate communications for Middle East and Africa, reiterated the same statement sent to ITWeb previously: “Eskom’s application for an interdict against Oracle was dismissed, with costs, by the High Court. Eskom should pay the pending dues for the Oracle software that they use.”

Among other services, Eskom relies on Oracle’s software for the maintenance of its power plants. It also relies on Oracle’s software for services such as online vending for customers to buy electricity online.

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