From the Plato Act to the Geomatics Profession Act

February 6th, 2014, Published in Articles: PositionIT, Featured: PositionIT


by Paul Marshall, Plato

For the past nine years the “new Bill” has been hovering over the Geomatics industry. This has put many things on hold pending the enactment of the Geomatics Profession Act. Well now, for better or worse, it is a reality. The Act was signed off by the president in early December last year.

Paul Marshall

Paul Marshall

With limited variations this Act is still a clone of the “Planning Profession Act” and it is, at a glance, not very different to the original “Surveying Profession Bill” first published in late 2005. However thanks to the direct involvement of the Chief Surveyor General in the parliamentary process there have been several meaningful, sometimes subtle, compromises and concessions, culminating in the final version now known as The Geomatics Profession Act No. 19 of 2013.

Once in place there are going to be many immediate challenges for the new council.

Amongst these challenges are going to be:

  • The design and printing of new letterheads, certificates and other stationery items.
  • Publishing of a code of conduct within 90 days after the first council meeting.
  • Preparing a new budget and financial plan allowing for the remuneration of council and committee members.
  • Preparing a new set of rules in line with the new Act.
  • Redesigning and possibly re-structuring the webpage.
  • Appointing an education and training committee to ultimately take over the work of the Plato Education and Advisory Committee,
  • And, I would imagine, many others that will only become evident once the new council starts its work.

How will this transition affect you?

Based on some of the many queries received by the registrar here are the answers to a few of them.

Will this affect you as an existing registered Plato member?

As long as you are currently a fully paid up registered member of the South African Council for Professional and Technical Surveyors (Plato), the impact of the Act will be somewhere between no impact and a negligible impact. You will certainly not be asked to reregister.

Will it mean new certificates and new registration numbers for existing members?

My logic says no, the registers should remain unchanged so there would be no justification in changing the existing registration numbers. Issuing new certificates to existing members would be an expense and a work load that I believe the new council would try to avoid, especially in the early days. Having said this, this will obviously be a matter for the new council to decide.

Will the new Act change the registration categories?

No, and very unlikely in the near future. All existing registration categories and levels will remain in place and all persons currently registered in line with these will remain so registered.

If you are not currently registered, should you register now or wait?

If you are currently eligible for registration but have not bothered to do so for whatever reason, my advice would be to do so as soon as possible. For the immediate future, the existing registration and academic criteria will continue as normal but this will ultimately change as the new council finalises the rules relating to registration. The stated objective of the department is the maintenance of standards and so, if anything, registration may become more arduous.

Will there be another round of Grandfather Clause opportunities with the implementation of the new Act?

A new round of Grandfather Clause opportunities will not open up with the implementation of the Geomatics Profession Act. The grandfather clause opportunity is only intended to cater for the registration of existing unregistered practitioners with the opening of a new registration category. (See page 12 for existing opportunities that expire on 30 April 2014.)

Will this mean the end of the CPD programme?

Again the answer is definitely no. In fact the new Act makes specific reference to a CPD programme as being one of the council’s responsibilities. This means, being a requirement of the Act, sanction for non-compliance with the requirements of CPD can be more readily enforced.

Will registration fees increase or decrease?

Logically registration fees should decrease as the department is now responsible for the funding of the council. To what extent this will affect the costs to members will however only be apparent in the next year or so.

What of work reservation?

The Act allows for work reservation in principle, but then so did the Plato Act. In the geomatics industry, considering the number of construction surveyors, GISc users, and Google Earth photogrammatists, meaningful work reservation is not likely to happen in the near future.

Will the new council publish a tariff?

Most likely, this has been one of the carrots held out to the industry as reason to accept the new Act. As with most other responsibilities of the new council this is unlikely to happen overnight. There are several prerequisites to which the council needs to first comply before being in a position to publish a tariff. Any tariff published by the council will of necessity only be a recommended tariff.

Will complaints of improper conduct already lodged with Plato be seen to a conclusion?

Yes, all complaints of improper conduct currently lodged with the Plato Council will ultimately be dealt with by Plato. Plato will also continue to accept legitimate complaints of improper conduct as normal until the new council is in place.

The immediate process forward, as I see it, is that the Chief Surveyor General’s office will put out a call for nominations to the new council, these will be short listed and a recommendation will be made to the minister. Once the council members are appointed, the Chief Surveyor General will arrange for the first council meeting which will be the starting point… or rather the end point for Plato. This Act, and consequently the new council, will from then govern the geomatics industry in South Africa. How it functions will depend very much on your support and willingness to volunteer and participate.

Contact Paul Marshal, Plato, Tel 011 436-2133,

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