Consulting Engineers South Africa (CESA) says it is critical for government to ensure that the limited public funds going into the economic stimulus package are used responsibly to gain true ‘value for money’.
Chris Campbell CESA CEO notes that while the organisation applauds this bold move by the President aimed at kick-starting the economy and creating jobs through infrastructure investment, they believes that the first step in the process would be to call out corruption where it is still taking place.
“Whilst blatant corruption, namely, getting paid for professional services and delivering nothing is bad, appointing companies for infrastructure projects who lack both the capacity and the expertise and simply ‘sell-on’ projects adding no value to the process is equally bad,” Campbell explains.
He continues “We would argue that this is tantamount to fronting and defeats the objective of developing future capacity in the Consulting Engineering industry, as part of a credible transformation process for our industry.”
A counter-intuitive procurement process
Campbell says the current public infrastructure procurement process counter-intuitively drives costs down in the infrastructure investment area when appointing Consulting Engineering professional service providers.
“This is seemingly oblivious to the opportunity to rather invest more in this phase so that the best professional service providers can maximise the quality of service that would derive savings in the remaining cost component of the investment.”
To fix this problem Campbell suggests that we start by appointing recognised companies with the appropriate expertise and capacity to do the upfront engineering, planning and design.
“Unless we act to correct this flawed process, we will not as a country be able to afford to operate and maintain these assets optimally, as potential ‘in-built’ shortcomings through cheap designs, poor equipment choices and lack of quality supervision during construction will mean more frequent maintenance at higher cost to operations or simply that maintenance will be deferred or not done.”
“It starts by commissioning the services of Built Environment Professionals who are able to deliver quality services that provide long term value solutions to lasting infrastructure now. We need to get more ‘bang for our buck’ especially at a time that our economy has flat-lined into what some would like to call a technical recession. Spending responsibly will enable more infrastructure delivery at a time that the need for functional and lasting infrastructure grows daily,” Campbell concludes.