Jul 29, 2011
Corruption, lack of business integrity continue to challenge consulting engineersBack
Engineering|Africa|CoAL|Consulting|Education|Nuclear|Projects|Renewable Energy|Renewable-Energy|SSI|Africa|South Africa|Energy|Nuclear|Power Generation|Power-generation|Consulting Engineers|Infrastructure|Leon Furstenburg|Naren Bhojaram|Power
© 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 (150 word limit)
Other Infrastructure News
Updated 7 hours ago Container traffic through Kenya's biggest port grew by 12.8% in the first six months of the year after new cargo handling infrastructure was built to shorten the turnaround time for ships. The Indian Ocean port of Mombasa, the biggest in east Africa and the region's...
Updated 5 hours ago Nigeria-focused oil and gas explorer Oando Energy Resources (OER) on Wednesday announced that it had completed the acquisition of the Nigerian upstream oil and gas business of New York-listed ConocoPhillips for a total cash consideration of $1.5-billion as well as a...
Updated 5 hours ago The disciplinary hearing of telecommunications giant Telkom’s suspended CFO Jacques Schindehütte was set to resume next Wednesday. Telkom said it hoped the hearing would result in a definitive resolution on the matter of Schindehütte’s personal conduct after a...
Updated 6 hours ago While unauthorised expenditure by South Africa’s municipalities has declined year-on-year, irregular expenditure has recorded a R2-billion increase as municipalities failed to follow legislated procurement procedures, the latest Auditor-General South Africa audit...
Recent Research Reports
Real Economy Year Book 2014 (PDF Report)
This edition drills down into the performance and outlook for a variety of sectors, including automotive, construction, electricity, transport, steel, water, coal, gold, iron-ore and platinum.
Real Economy Insight: Automotive 2014 (PDF Report)
This four-page brief covers key developments in the automotive industry over the past 12 months, including an overview of South Africa’s automotive market, trade figures, production and the policies influencing the sector.
Real Economy Insight: Construction 2014 (PDF Report)
This five-page brief covers key developments in the construction industry over the past 12 months. It provides an overview of the sector and includes details of employment in the sector, infrastructure and municipal spending, as well as insight into companies’...
Real Economy Insight: Electricity 2014 (PDF Report)
This five-page brief covers key developments in the electricity industry over the past 12 months, including details of State-owned power utility Eskom’s generation activities, funding and tariffs, independent power producers and prospects for the sector.
Real Economy Insight: Road and Rail 2014 (PDF Report)
This six-page brief covers key developments in the road and rail industries over the past 12 months, including details of South Africa’s road and rail network and prospects for both sectors.
Real Economy Insight: Steel 2014 (PDF Report)
This four-page brief covers key developments in the steel industry over the past 12 months. It provides an overview of the global and South African steel and stainless steel markets, South Africa’s major steel producers and events that have shaped these markets.
This Week's Magazine
Multinational semiconductor chipmaker corporation Intel announced its national campaign to further acquire partners to drive its She Will Connect programme, an initiative that aims to expand digital literacy skills to young women in developing countries, further into...
South Africa's MeerKAT radio telescope array programme should get back on schedule within a few months. This assurance has been given by SKA South Africa (SKA SA) associate director: science and technology Prof Justin Jonas. Early last month, Science and Technology...
The Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa’s (PRASA’s) Metrorail service will remain a subsidised service following its current multibillion-rand rolling stock, station, depot and signalling upgrade programme. PRASA group CEO Lucky Montana has allayed fears that...
The uncertainties around the remediation of affected areas as addressed in the Contaminated Land Provisions in the National Environmental Management: Waste Act No 59 of 2008 will possibly spark litigation and disputes between landowners and businesses, contractors...
South Africa is currently the largest component of the African Development Bank’s (AfDB’s) active portfolio in Southern Africa, comprising 62.5% of the bank’s $7.9-billion exposure to the 12-country region – the second largest beneficiary is Mauritius, which...