Appoint reputable built-environment professionals

October 12th, 2018, Published in Articles: EE Publishers, Articles: Vector

While Consulting Engineers South Africa (CESA) applauds government’s economic stimulus package for economic growth, it warns that these funds must be used responsibly.

Appointing companies who lack capacity and expertise for infrastructure projects is tantamount to fronting and defeats the object of developing future capacity. Supply chain management regulations are often misinterpreted and abused to make such appointments possible.

Public sector investment in infrastructure sometimes spans over 50 years, especially in the case of major roads, bridges dams and other infrastructure. The upfront planning and design phases could take between three and five years before construction commences and the relative lifecycle cost contribution to the infrastructure investment is as little as 3%.

The next stage, construction, constitutes a cost contribution of 20% and may take place over three to five years. Therefore, after a period of six to ten years, an investment of up to 23% of the total cost of ownership is expended even before the infrastructure is ready for use. The public sector is then left with an asset meant to last for at least 30 years provided that it is maintained properly. This is known as the operation and maintenance phase and constitutes the remaining 77% of the total cost of ownership in the investment process.

Our current public infrastructure procurement process counter-intuitively drives costs down in the 3% area when appointing consulting engineering professionals The process seems oblivious to the opportunity to invest more in this phase so that service providers can deliver service quality that would derive savings in the remaining 97% cost component.

We can address the problem by appointing companies with the expertise to provide the upfront engineering, planning and design. CESA has at least 550 member companies. Starting with companies affiliated with credible organisations is a step towards stemming the tide of bogus service providers.

Optimising investments in infrastructure from a total cost of ownership perspective starts with the first 3% invested on consulting engineering services.

The public sector should invest holistically in infrastructure and not regard as responsible behaviour procurement of consultancy services at least-cost.

CESA is aware of the shortage of procurement practitioners in the public sector who understand the difference between procuring for infrastructure development and general procurement. It is for this reason that the organisation partnered with the state shortly after the president’s Thuma Mina address earlier this year.

Unless we correct this flawed process,

The country will be unable to operate and maintain these assets, as potential in-built shortcomings will mean more frequent, higher-cost maintenance. This implies re-capitalising assets long before their 30-years are over.

CESA calls for an informed, holistic approach to infrastructure investment, starting with commissioning built environment professionals who deliver quality service. We must focus on the role of infrastructure investment in stimulating our economy.

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