Consulting Engineers South Africa (CESA) welcomes the bold move to lead municipalities back to basics and to put in place institutional mechanisms to enable them to deliver core municipal services as announced by Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister (CoGTA), Pravin Gordhan.
CoGTA has a responsibility to build a system of local governance, within the three spheres of government as set out in the Constitution. Gordhan added that building such a system is a long term project; however, the ministry is also tasked with dealing with immediate operational difficulties within local government.
“It is in the municipal areas in which citizens work, live and socialise that this process of eradicating injustices, healing the divisions, improving the quality of life and where democracy social justice and human rights, becomes concrete and meaningful in the lives of South Africans.”
CESA welcomes the call made by the Minister to establish an Advisory Committee of Eminent Persons drawn from various sectors, including civil society to advise him on issues arising in the procurement system within local government, as well as on how to increase integrity and the value system in this sphere of the public sector.
This aligns well with the concept of establishing a watchdog (Chapter 9 Institution such as the Public Protector’s office) for the Construction Industry which CESA has been strongly advocating for a number of years. Judging by the number of procurement irregularities brought to its attention, CESA fully supports any attempt by the Minister to infuse a new ethic and value system within Government.
“For years now, we have been calling for a total overhaul of the current procurement regime, which has relegated the duty of consulting engineers from that of the trusted adviser to clients to a situation where engineers have to tender for work. Hence, we are ready to partner with CoGTA in its quest to create an Advisory Committee of Eminent Persons,” says CESA CEO Lefadi Makibinyane.
The audits conducted by the Auditor-General have shown over many years that municipalities’ financial management falls short of requirements. This has been severely compounded by the exodus of technical skills and engineering expertise from municipalities since 1994, to the point where very few professional engineers are employed within the municipal sector. Approximately 70% of the 278 municipalities do not employ even one engineer among its staff. CESA is committed to assisting municipalities in addressing this problem in the short term through the employment of its member firms and in the long term through the training and mentoring of municipal technical staff.
The Ministry of CoGTA will work closely with the National Treasury and the Auditor-General to improve their audits and ensure that performance improves. Minister Gordhan said within six months CoGTA will put in place systems to enable the ministry to monitor of the performance of every municipality on a day-to-day basis - this will provide a high degree of transparency and accountability to citizens.
Makibinyane added that with regard to the Minister’s views on economic development such as the Community Work Programme and the development of local economics, CESA believes that its member firms, being responsible for infrastructure planning and design, are in a strong position to support municipalities and contribute significantly in this regard.
“We shall continue to making it clear that preparation of infrastructure development projects, their planning and design lies within the expertise of consulting engineering profession and until such time, which may take decades, that the municipalities have built this capacity, our member firms shall continue to be the only source of support both at the National, Provincial and Local government. We therefore would like to draw the attention of the National Leadership that CESA is the integral professional resource that must be effectively utilized to conceptualize, design and supervise the procurement and implementation of the infrastructure projects while at the same time it is providing the fertile experiential training and development ground for the future internal capacity of the municipalities. This will be the litmus test of the technical capability of the municipalities", emphasizes Makibinyane.