Engineers slam corrupt payments

CONSULTING Engineers South Africa (Cesa)‚ whose mission statement is improving the quality of life for all South Africans by the promotion of engineering excellence‚ says it is appalled by the pressure put on its members to certify payment for work not done.

The industry body said yesterday it would not bow to pressure from "greedy‚ unscrupulous and unqualified contractors and corrupt officials".

Cesa chief executive Lefadi Makibinyane said the organisation was concerned, as the backbone of quality infrastructure in South Africa, that "bad elements" were holding the engineering profession to ransom.

"We cannot accept this despicable behaviour and conduct to continue unchallenged‚" Makibinyane said.

"Their actions are denying our people a better life through the delivery of basic services and critical infrastructure underpinning economic growth and job creation.

"Our government has done everything to prepare internationally acclaimed policies ... but these unscrupulous officials ... are eroding the profitability‚ not only of our member firms‚ but most companies doing business with government‚ especially municipalities where the rot lies‚" he said.

Makibinyane also said governance in most municipalities was in a shambles and worsened by political interference in administration.

The Cesa statement came as President Jacob Zuma announced his new cabinet. The Presidency indicated that the choice of ministers reflected the government's intention to ensure implementation and the impact of the National Development Plan (NDP).

The plan includes a R4-trillion national infrastructure development programme comprising 18 strategic infrastructure projects that will expedite and further integrate South Africa's socio-economic development. But since 1994‚ claims and counter-claims of corruption between government and the nation's construction firms have been hallmarks of South Africa's construction industry.

Many of the industry's biggest names were recently fined a total of R1.46-billion by the competition authorities over collusion claims.

While world-class building standards in South Africa were maintained by numerous professional organisations‚ the building and maintenance of the country's infrastructure was of increasing concern to the wider construction and engineering industry.

Coupled with substantial labour unrest at major projects‚ including Eskom's new Medupi and Kusile power stations – and apart from 2010 Fifa World Cup soccer programmes – the building of infrastructure in South Africa has been seen to be too little and too late in the past few decades.

Late last year‚ a roof collapsed at a Tongaat shopping-mall construction site‚ north of Durban‚ trapping dozens of people and leaving some dead. This followed other deadly building collapses in South Africa in recent years and similar incidents in the rest of Africa.

But while many in business are relying on the NDP and the government's infrastructure plans to restore significant economic growth, Kaizer Nyatsumba‚ chief executive of the Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of SA, said last week at a manufacturing conference that the relationship between business and the government was far from what it should be. – BDlive