Government has an obligation to address the infrastructure needs of citizens and it achieves this through the procurement of engineering services.
However, there are a number of challenges that construction firms or consulting engineering companies face when it comes to procurement in the public sector environment and this threatens the sustainable development of infrastructure in South Africa, as well as the country’s economic growth, and these must be addressed, Consulting Engineers South Africa (Cesa) Gauteng branch chairperson Gift Mphefu has pointed out.
He was speaking during day one of the Cesa Infrastructure Indaba 2021, on September 28.
Mphefu noted that some of these challenges include delays and nonpayment following services rendered to some public service clients.
Moreover, some of the requests for proposals are not put together in a clear way for everyone to understand, he pointed out.
He also said that there was an absence of a systematic way in which to engage with local subcontractors.
Mphefu further highlighted a lack of collaboration between the client and the engineering professional, sometimes owing to capacity issues from either side.
Meanwhile, economist Dr Miriam Altman highlighted a number of issues in the procurement of infrastructure, as well as recommendations from the country’s National Infrastructure Plan 2050 which aim to address those issues.
She said the first broad area was a focus on strengthening the cohort of public sector professionals registered with built environment bodies and councils.
She said this was “exceptionally thin” at the moment.
Altman indicated that the second broad area was clients’ delivery managers, who lead infrastructure projects with a single point of accountability and who need to have appropriate certification.
The third broad area was that infrastructure procurement and delivery management (IPDM) should be focused on value for money rather than least cost, and with consideration for project lifecycle.
Fourthly, she said, infrastructure supply chain management should become more of a strategic function, rather than back-office or a purely financial or administrative function.
This, she added, was also a way of dealing with corruption, as it provided transparency.
Lastly, it was suggested that IPDM be delinked from centralised procurement and led by a chief procurement offer or a high level office specifically mandated and capacitated with built environment professionals.