Industry body Consulting Engineers South Africa (Cesa) has set effective, ethical leadership and embracing the fourth industrial revolution as its priorities for this year.
Delivering his presidential message, in Johannesburg, on Tuesday, Cesa president Neresh Pather said the organisation would focus on transformation efforts, the new world of digitisation and new ways of doing things through innovation and data informed techniques, under the theme ‘Our Future is Now’.
“We need to ensure that all South Africans and Africans are given a fair chance to further their contribution to our continent. We need to allow for practices to address the imbalances of the past,” he said.
He added that planned programmes of employment creation, skills development and encouraging trade relations with South Africa’s neighbours, as well as other developed and emerging countries should be accelerated.
Pather noted that empowerment should be encouraged to truly develop African industrialists to grow the economy.
“As part of our transformation drive, we need to embrace both youth and gender equality so that we ensure the conversation on our future includes all participants. This is the only way we will be able to design a future that is relevant and inclusive,” he said.
Pather, meanwhile, noted that the current impasse between the Engineering Council of South Africa (ECSA) and voluntary associations (VAs) was unhealthy for the industry.
He commented that the notion that either ECSA or the VAs could serve the industry in isolation was ludicrous and needed urgent attention from the various Ministries in government, in particular the Department of Public Works (DPW).
The South African Institution of Civil Engineering (Saice) and several VAs, in March last year submitted an application to the High Court to have the current ECSA council members suspended.
A number of VAs within the engineering fraternity have expressed concern over the legitimacy of the new council, which was appointed by former Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi in July 2016.
However, according to the Engineering Profession Act, the appointment of the ECSA council entails the outgoing council submitting a list of 50 nominees, as well as an unspecified number of reserves, to the DPW, following which the Minister will approve or change the lists before sending it back to ECSA.
Shortly after the appointment of the new ECSA council, the Council for the Built Environment released the provisional findings of an investigation into the council appointment process. In the report, the CBE stated that Nxesi had not consulted the outgoing ECSA council and that the final appointments were “without apparent rationale”.
Pather, meanwhile, expressed concern that the infrastructure directorate at the National Treasury was not taking ownership and accountability for the implementation, monitoring and compliance of its recently rolled out Standard for Infrastructure Procurement and Delivery Management (SIPDM) programme.
The SIPDM programme was designed to migrate the emphasis away from administration and to focus on governance and leadership to ensure that infrastructure in government is driven with the correct knowledge and competence.
Pather stressed that it was a fallacy that increased spending on infrastructure would address current industry issues.
“Spending correctly and in the correct areas that will afford us these benefits is more important,” he noted.
He highlighted, however, that, despite the umbrella organisation’s concerns, SIPDM was a positive intervention, with Cesa having collaborated with the National Treasury in the roll-out and training of the procurement system.
“Cesa is proud to be a partner to the National Treasury through a memorandum of understanding that ensures all State organisations have the required capacity and skills to be compliant with SIPDM, but also to ensure that noncompliance is addressed in a positive manner for future relations,” he said.
Pather reiterated that Cesa was hopeful that the work done to date in the roll out of the SIPDM is further accelerated to create a paradigm shift for infrastructure in South Africa.