Engineers urge speed-up in infrastructure plans

PLANNING AHEAD: Consulting Engineers South Africa client liaison manager Godfrey Ramalisa, left, regional chairman Geoff Mendelowitz, centre, and Cesa president Abe Thela discuss Thela's presentation to consulting engineers at St George's Park last night. Picture: MIKE HOLMES
PLANNING AHEAD: Consulting Engineers South Africa client liaison manager Godfrey Ramalisa, left, regional chairman Geoff Mendelowitz, centre, and Cesa president Abe Thela discuss Thela’s presentation to consulting engineers at St George’s Park last night. Picture: MIKE HOLMES

THE government was warned yesterday to reduce bureaucracy in its procurement processes or run the risk of key infrastructure projects being hindered.

The alert was issued by Consulting Engineers South Africa (Cesa) president Abe Thela, who was in Nelson Mandela Bay to address members of the voluntary organisation during the annual presidential visit to the region.

Thela, who visited East London on Monday, said two crucial elements investors looked out for when considering a viable region, such as industrial development zones, were infrastructure and the availability of skills.

To grow both, the two main regulatory stumbling blocks Cesa wanted to address on behalf of members were the red tape and the associated extra cost involved in BEEE certification, as well as the high value placed on price when awarding tenders.

“Price should not be used as the basis of procurement, because it reduces consulting engineering to a commodity – which is demand driven – and results in us not being able to innovate or adequately train staff and attract young people to the profession,” Thela said.

Cesa hoped to have at least 15% to 25% representation of small and emerging consulting engineers, who represent 80% of the professional body’s membership, in targeted government procurement.

The group was also lobbying for simplifying the BEEE scorecard requirements for consulting engineering companies who enter into joint ventures for tenders.

Thela said Cesa would continue to have discussions this month with the National Treasury about its concerns regarding the red tape hindering development in South Africa.

Cesa was represented on the presidential infrastructural task team, he said.

“The National Development Plan has identified infrastructure as key to the socio-economic development of the country, but the NDP will not succeed without the expertise of the civil engineering sector.

“In the past, there has been erratic development and to sustain the sector government needs to invest in infrastructure on a consistent basis yearon year, at least up to 2030.”

Thela also urged government to tackle corruption at all levels to eradicate wasteful expenditure and under-spending of budgets. The private sector also needed to invest in infrastructure development.

Cesa regional chairman Geoff Mendelowitz said consulting engineers were the backbone of infrastructure development, and “without us there is nothing”.

He said exciting projects in the Eastern Cape included the upgrade of the province’s three harbours, the planned relocation of the manganese terminal from the Port Elizabeth Harbour to Coega, rail link improvements, and the upgrade of roads by Sanral.

“There is a move to break the infrastructure deadlock in the province, and we hope to form a meaningful part of this,” Mendelowitz said. – Cindy Preller

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