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Consulting engineer woes have spanned two decades, says Cesa

Chemical Tank Installation
August 26, 2020

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Consulting engineer woes have spanned two decades, says Cesa

A recent dig through Consulting Engineers South Africa’s (Cesa’s) archives has found that the push for partnership between government and private sector spans long before recent actions of the industry body, says Cesa.

For more than 20 years, the organisation has been promoting infrastructure development as an avenue for economic recovery and, as reported in a March 2000 edition of Government Digest, Cesa has been offering assistance with government’s management and technical capacity since 1998.

The article cites Pieter Conradie, who was president of Cesa from 1998 to 2000 when it was called the South African Association for Consulting Engineers.

Conradie noted that the year 1999 had seen the worst economic conditions in the industry.

“As our member firms downsized to one- or two-person offices, we lost engineering expertise as the retrenched individuals migrated to other markets.”

Cesa CEO Chris Campbell says this statement still rings true today, as many consulting engineers continue to consider new horizons, frustrated by the lack of projects available in South Africa.

“While the recently gazetted list of strategic infrastructure projects should provide hope and opportunity for local professionals, the inconsistent pipeline of projects has historically been a pain-point for the profession,” says Campbell.

Conradie in the March 2000 article goes on to say that a major factor of the crisis in this industry was the cutback on infrastructure spending by the public sector, for new projects as well as for maintenance of existing assets.

Cesa had noticed how local authorities all over the country were suffering from a lack of management and technical capacity.

“Our offers to assist with the project business plans and technical reports were received enthusiastically. This will be the only way to unlock millions of rands available for infrastructure projects. It is up to members to initiate projects by assisting local authorities and to get funds flowing for the benefit of communities,” Conradie stated.

Campbell says that finding the article was bittersweet.

“On the one hand, it is great to see that our support for government and drive for collaboration reaches so far back. For more than 20 years, we have been offering our expertise for the growth of the built environment industry and for the benefit of communities in need of new or improved infrastructure.

“On the other hand, it seems that in two decades not enough has been done in this regard. This article from 2000 reads like many of 2020 – we need to work with local authorities and tap into the funds available for infrastructure development,” Campbell explains.

Under the Infrastructure Development Act, 50 infrastructure projects were gazetted in July as Strategic Integrated Projects, with more to come.

These projects are reportedly “shovel ready” and mark the first tangible outcome after months of work by Public Works and Infrastructure Minister Patricia de Lille and the head of infrastructure investment in the Presidency Dr Kgosientsho Ramokgopa.

“The identified projects were selected from a list of more than 200 projects and should help jumpstart the built environment industry towards an improved pipeline of work, as well as provide communities with much-needed water, energy, residential and transport infrastructure,” concludes Campbell.