The South African Institution of Civil Engineering (SAICE) notes Minister Tito Mboweni’s Medium Term Budget Policy Statement (MTBPS) presented in Parliament on 25 October 2018. The Institution welcomes Government’s focus on infrastructure development in support of economic recovery and job creation. It especially supports the development of an infrastructure fund in partnership with the private sector aimed at enhancing economic growth and improving governance. The reinforcing of a commitment to the National Development Plan is also encouraging.
SAICE however hopes that this reprioritisation of infrastructure to support economic growth and job creation is accompanied by a real and sustainable commitment and action to re-professionalization and capacitating of public sector departments both locally and nationally – to meet the needs of the roll out of projects and infrastructure spend. For years, government has announced, repeatedly from the highest points of administration in the country, investment in the tune of billions into infrastructure – only for there to be no significant implementation and roll out of projects at local level.
Commenting on the issue, SAICE COO Steven Kaplan said, “This has been ongoing while the built environment has been for a long time plagued with lack of sustainable project work, with firms being forced to release engineers back into the market. There has also been a steady rise of student graduates in the sector that has not been able to secure sustainable work for in-service training, as well as post-graduation employment.”
An incapacitated public sector has resulted in the lack of structures, processes and systems in government to manage infrastructure spend and is evident in the lack of knowledge on how to identify projects and how to spend the allocated money. This challenge is at its most detrimental at the local municipalities where infrastructure engineering service delivery meets the community.
The key to unlocking infrastructure development lies in capacitating the Government departments, Local Authorities, and state owned enterprises. Fixing this requires a multi-pronged approach. In the immediate short-term all tiers of government need to offer better terms to their existing experienced professional staff to stop further haemorrhaging. This needs to be supplemented by the “re-treading” of retired engineers. Getting out the necessary tenders will also require the services of experienced professionals seconded from the private sector. Now would be an opportune time to do so. Political and managerial resolve is required to make the necessary funds available and actively oversee the recruitment.
“It is encouraging that the new administration has indicated an embracing of collaborative efforts between the private and public sector. SAICE reiterates its availability to be of service to government to assist in alleviating these technical issues. SAICE is a lobby group. Our job is to make government ministers and officials understand what needs to be done, and then help them do it”, said Kaplan.
Issued by the South African Institution of Civil Engineering (SAICE)
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