Public Works and Infrastructure Minister, Sihle Zikalala, is spearheading significant reforms within the construction industry, aiming to address longstanding issues that have hindered its progress. At the recent National Stakeholder Forum convened by the Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB), Minister Zikalala outlined key initiatives to tackle delayed payments to contractors, enhance financing for Small, Medium, and Micro Enterprises (SMMEs), address the cancellation of tenders, accelerate professional development, and mitigate disruptions on construction sites.Operation Pay-on-Time: Fighting Corruption and Bribery One of the foremost challenges faced by contractors in the construction industry is the delayed payment of invoices. Minister Zikalala has pledged to intensify “Operation Pay-on-Time” to ensure that service providers are paid promptly within 30 days. The Minister expressed concern over allegations that outstanding invoices amount to billions, emphasizing the need to combat bribery and corruption associated with delayed payments. The Re a Patala campaign will be expanded across all provinces to further emphasize the urgency of timely payments. CIDB-SEFA Partnership for SMMEs Recognizing the financial struggles of SMMEs and emerging contractors in accessing funds, Minister Zikalala highlighted the historic partnership between CIDB and the Small Enterprise Finance Agency (SEFA). The proposed collaboration will allocate up to R150 million from each entity over the medium term, specifically targeting small and medium-sized contractors and cooperatives in the construction sector. This initiative aims to provide much-needed financial support and alleviate challenges faced by SMMEs in securing loans for building materials and other resources. Addressing Tender Cancellations and Variation Orders
Stakeholders urged Minister Zikalala to investigate and report on the escalating rate of tender cancellations, particularly large tenders by parastatals and institutions, costing the construction industry billions. The Construction Industry Development Board will examine the practice of charging low during tendering to rely on variation orders. The Minister highlighted the need for an independent process outside of the department to oversee variation orders, ensuring transparency and fairness in tendering processes.Mentoring Built Environment Professionals Expressing concerns about the slow career advancement of professionals in the built environment industry, Minister Zikalala highlighted suspicions of gate-keeping, with over 30,000 professionals kept at the candidacy level for an extended period. The Council for the Built Environment (CBE) will establish a national logbook to track progress, standardize recognition processes, and strengthen relationships with tertiary institutions and councils. These measures aim to accelerate the mentoring, preparation, and registration of students at lower academic levels, empowering them with relevant skills. Social Facilitation to Mitigate Construction Site Disruptions To mitigate disruptions on construction sites, the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure will prioritize social facilitation as an integral part of all project implementations. Minister Zikalala emphasized community involvement, buy-in, and beneficiation, isolating criminal elements. Large projects will now incorporate empowerment elements supporting emerging professionals and mandatory local subcontracting. The Department will develop a national facilitation framework to ensure law enforcement against criminal activities like extortion and promote genuine participation in the construction sector. In conclusion, Minister Zikalala’s commitment to transforming the construction industry reflects a comprehensive approach that addresses financial, procedural, and social challenges. These initiatives are poised to foster a more inclusive and transparent environment, driving sustainable growth and development within the construction sector.