Not enough has been done in the transformation space to tackle the imbalances of the past across South Africa, outgoing Consulting Engineers South Africa (Cesa) president Lynne Pretorius said on Tuesday.
Pretorius, whose two-year term had been largely underpinned by the pursuit of transformation in the industry, explained that, while much progress had been made over the past few years, a deeper review of Cesa’s member base shows disparities that tell a different story, with little changes seen over the past few years.
Delivering her final speech as Cesa president, she said that, of the 23 000 engineering staff employed at Cesa’s 540 consulting engineering firm members, about 50% were white, while only 16% of all professionally registered engineering practitioners and technologists were black.
“The employment breakdown indicates that black people are typically employed lower down on the professional hierarchy as technicians, technical assistants and laboratory or survey assistants,” she told delegates at a one-day Cesa seminar prior to the association’s yearly general meeting.
In addition, only 21% of Cesa’s member firms have black ownership greater than 51%.
This is despite operating in a legislative environment that clearly spells out the transformation imperative and giving it teeth through the introduction of the Preferential Procurement Policy Framework Act.
“The imbalance in the industry is self-evident and, as an industry representative of the private sector, we have acknowledged that not enough has been done to transform the business landscape in South Africa,” she said.
However, Pretorius conceded that transformation can not be a short-term action if it is to be sustainable.
“To be sustainable, we need to take a long-term view and ensure that the necessary building blocks are in place to realise this. Having said that, we need to start accelerating the pace of transformation,” she commented.
The previous version of preferential procurement policies had progressed the country’s ambition, just not to the extent expected, while South Africa’s extensive broad-based black economic empowerment (BBBEE) policies gave rise to fronting.
“Today questions are being raised about the effectiveness of the BBBEE scorecard in realising the country’s transformation objectives,” Pretorius noted.
“So now, in 2017, we have to look at where we are right now and consider where we want to be as a country another 23 years from now.”
Pretorius pointed out that the Construction Sector Council Charter Scorecard, submitted for public comment in 2016 and believed to be more progressive than the current Generic Code most firms had to align with, has been approved by Cabinet.
Subsequently, the PPPFA was promulgated in April, which placed a renewed emphasis on transformation imperatives in the Construction Sector.
“Cesa also believes that its member firms should pursue transformation because it makes good business sense in other respects,” Pretorius concluded, noting that the profession would benefit, firms would benefit and, ultimately, the South African society would benefit from a more transformed consulting engineering sector.