The private sector has a significant role to play in assisting local government to improve service delivery, said Consulting Engineers South Africa (Cesa) client liason manager Godfrey Ramalisa at the Engineering Planet Future conference hosted by the South African Institution Civil Engineering.
Ramalisa is involved in Cesa’s Project Development Facilitation Alliance (PDFA), a Section 21 company established by the association to assist local government in procuring the services of Cesa members for projects.
He said that PDFA had been involved in procuring Cesa members for a number of service delivery projects, including bucket system eradication initiatives. PDFA focuses its efforts in the area of service delivery and the maintenance and replacement of infrastructure.
There are dual pressures facing local government as the public is becoming increasingly aware of quality issues and the lack of municipal infrastructure hampering service delivery. There is also a lack of technical management capacity in municipalities to tackle these issues.
While the funding model for private partnerships with local government through organisations such as PDFA is yet to be fin-alised, private business involvement with government “needs to make business sense”, said Ramalisa. The private sector has to maintain and grow its profit margins and cannot be expected to constantly provide free engineering services for government.
However, the private sector has a responsibility to rebuild and invest in skills in municipalities.
Organisations such as PDFA provide a competitive advantage for both parties in such procurement facilitation as they are able to assist with the speedy procurement and deploy- ment of resources, a wide support base for deployed resources and industry accountability in the event of recall or disciplinary measures having to be taken.
Government has also taken steps to improve professionalism in local government by developing competence frameworks to improve the processes and requirement outlines for the hiring of engineers in government.
The City of Cape Town initiated the pro-cess of developing comprehensive competence frameworks in 2007 when it recognised that it was losing engineers to the private sector and that the average age of engineers working for the municipality was above 45.
When engineering positions are correctly filled, employee retention and service delivery by government can be significantly improved.
“Effective service delivery is reliant on having the right people in the right jobs,” noted City of Cape Town representative Yogan Reddy.
Part of the competence framework develop-ment process was the identification of critical positions in local government, such as the position of water services manager. Reddy explained that minimum skill requirements had to be set for critical positions.
He added that competence frameworks did not stand alone but were the backbone of integrated human resource management systems aimed at improving technical skills retention and development in local government.