Jul 29, 2011
Corruption, lack of business integrity continue to challenge consulting engineersBack
Education|Renewable-Energy|SSI|South Africa|Leon Furstenburg|Naren Bhojaram
© Reuse this
This view is compounded by global civil soci- ety organisation Transparency International’s ‘Corruption Perception Index’ report, which has found that, between 2009 and 2010, the business integrity of many African countries has deteriorated and corruption has increased.
“There is a significant amount of power within political structures and, despite the fact that the functions of municipal councils and local government are separate, politi- cal power is being manipulated to the extent that jobs are offered to unqualified friends, salaries are inflated and the local tender committees at government structures are pressured to award tenders to companies willing to pay a bribe,” he says.
SSI, when inviting tenders on behalf of a client, often provides a report examining the tender objectively, analysing the price, any manipulation of rates, and the capability and capacity of the contractor that will undertake the work, the firm states.
The report comprises the results of the company’s analysis, the methods used, SSI’s suggestions regarding which company to award the tender to and further options for the client, after taking into consideration all factors.
However, reports, whether submitted by SSI or other consultants, are often disregarded and the tender is awarded, amid bribery between the contractors and the committee, to unquali- fied and inexperienced contractors in under-the-table deals, says Bhojaram.
The best way to mitigate integrity or corruption issues in certain councils or government structures is to avoid participation in their processes.
SSI and Knight Piésold, a firm of consulting engineers and scientists, say they are in a position to decline work they believe might involve corruption; however, some smaller companies have not yet developed a stable customer base and may need to participate to survive.
Bhojaram believes another solution would be to name and shame individuals and companies knowingly involved in corrupt deals and to openly examine the results of any investigations undertaken.
This will assist the industry in avoiding deals with these companies and learning from the corruption issues many are faced with daily.
For example, the past few years has seen an initiative to place retired engineers at municipalities to rebuild the lost skills capacity. However, there is continual conflict between the decision-makers and the engineer directing what is required to move forward.
Further examples include the power crisis that South Africa inevitably faced in 2008, as well as acid mine drainage, both of which were studied and noted extensively for many years by engineers and specialists before the situation reached crisis point.
“However, the decision-makers, who were not necessarily the correct persons to mitigate the potential challenge, did not take action on the basis of disbelief, or were not sufficiently experienced or qualified to understand the engi- neers’ suggested prevention concepts,” he says.
Furstenburg feels the country’s preoccupation with renewable-energy sources will result in similar challenges. As South Africa’s power generation is predominantly coal or nuclear based, the country does not have the hydro adsorption or pumped-storage capacity or infrastructure required to regulate input from these forms of renewable- energy sources, for example.
Education is Key
Corruption and education are linked, and better levels of education and understanding of engineering would go a long way towards reducing the attractiveness of corruption.
However, the quality of education in South Africa seems to have deteriorated, he says.
Some universities have reduced entrance requirements and dropped the course requirements for engineering qualifications, as these have proven difficult for some students.
“It is not progressive to change what one believes is too difficult or time consuming,” says Furstenburg. “This results in university degrees that lack quality and have no international recognition. Education should remain at a level where it is helpful and relevant.”
Bhojaram adds that schools and universities are not producing entrepreneurial thinkers. Depth of thinking is lacking in graduates, as students are taught the theory of the subject matter, but not how to successfully apply it in a practical scenario.
“This is due to the fact that the schools do not have adequately qualified teachers. The best teachers are not being sourced, as their salaries are too low. Deterioration in the quality of university graduates has been seen over the past 10 to 15 years,” he says.
To mitigate this challenge, SSI employees coach potential matriculants every Saturday in applying the theory they have been taught in practical applications, Bhojaram concludes.
Edited by: Chanel de Bruyn© Reuse this Comment Guidelines
Other Consulting Engineers News
The objectives of the National Development Plan (NDP) will not be realised unless consulting engineers are more involved in the process, says newly appointed voluntary association Consulting Engineers South Africa (Cesa) president Abe Thela. Cesa represents in...
Consulting engineering firm Gibb has announced the appointment of black economic-empowerment (BEE) heavyweight and Black Management Forum founding member Don Mkhwanazi as chairperson of the Gibb Holdings board. CEO Richard Vries said in a statement on Tuesday that...
Article contains comments
Following complaints from its member firms, Consulting Engineers South Africa (Cesa) has noted “with concern the blatant abuse of Section 32 of the Municipal Finance Management Act” and has called on the Auditor General, National Treasury and the Public Protector...
Recent Research Reports
Automotive 2014: A review of South Africa's automotive sector (PDF Report)
The report provides insight into the business environment, the key participants in the sector, local construction demand, geographic diversification, competition within the sector, corporate activity, skills, safety, environmental considerations and the challenges...
Construction 2014: A review of South Africa's construction sector (PDF Report)
Construction data released during 2013 hints at a halt to the decline in the industry during the last few years, with some commentators averring that the industry could be poised for recovery. However, others have urged caution, noting that the prospects for a...
Electricity 2014: A Review of South Africa's Electricity Sector (PDF Report)
This report provides an overview of the state of electricity generation and transmission in South Africa and examines electricity planning, investment in generation capacity, electricity tariffs, the role of independent power producers and demand-focused initiatives,...
Defence 2013: A review of South Africa's defence industry (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s 2013 Defence Report examines South Africa’s defence industry, with particular focus on the key players in the sector, the innovations that have come out of the defence sector, local and export demand, South Africa’s controversial...
Road and Rail 2013: A review of South Africa's road and rail infrastructure (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s Road and Rail 2013 Report examines South Africa’s road and rail transport system, with particular focus on the size and state of the country’s road and rail network, the funding and maintenance of these respective networks, and the push to move...
Liquid Fuels 2013 (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s 2013 Liquid Fuels report examines South Africa’s liquid fuels market, focusing on the business environment, oil and gas exploration, the country’s feedstock supplies, the development of South Africa’s biofuels industry, fuel pricing,...
This Week's Magazine
A structured approach, wherein managers personally engage at each level of the project, is necessary to mitigate delays to the workflow on mega construction projects, says State-owned Eskom Kusile power station projects GM Abram Masango. The 4 800 MW Kusile power...
Construction of transmission lines to evacuate power from a regional hydroelectric project in East Africa, which was hanging on the balance following the withdrawal of financing by key partners, is now back on track. After six months of uncertainty, the African...
Three Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) were signed between South African and Malaysian companies at the Malaysian High Commission in Pretoria on Friday. These MoUs are part of the indirect offsets programme South Africa is providing in return for Malaysia’s...
The South African new vehicle market may well dip to 640 000 units in 2014, says Toyota South Africa Motors (TSAM) sales and marketing senior VP Calvyn Hamman. This is the first prediction that anticipates a drop in the market. To date economists and industry bodies...
Nissan will re-enter the South African minibus taxi industry in March, when the new NV350 Impendulo goes on sale. The 16-seater has been specifically tailored to meet the terms of government’s Taxi Recapitalisation Programme, which aims to replace South Africa’s...