Association of South African Quantity Surveyors to keep public infrastructure on schedule

Association of South African Quantity Surveyors to keep public infrastructure on schedule

Quantity surveyors are best placed to keep public infrastructure spend on track, in spite of 83% of government infrastructure spend presently managed by engineers.

An expected R875.70 billion has been dedicated to a number of determined government infrastructure projects for the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) until 2019/2020), according to the figures given in the national budget and publicly available information on projects and their budgets.

Herman Berry, a member of the Building and Property Economics Committee of the Association of South African Quantity Surveyors (ASAQS) and Executive: Program, Cost, Consultancy (Africa) at AECOM, says that this is a considerable number, and represents a very welcome dedication to service delivery and upgrading our national competitiveness.

“in spite of the volume of the infrastructure spend actually being managed by engineers, the main concern now must be to make sure that the projects are delivered on time and on budget—and greater involvement by professional quantity surveyors is the best way to do that,” he adds.

He points out that infrastructure spend in education, health and human settlements are mainly contracted through the Department of Public Works and the costs are customarily managed by quantity surveyors.

By disparity, projects in the other sectors are mostly under the cost control of engineers. These projects account for 83 percent of the projected spend in this budget (R726 billion).

“It is possibly worth mentioning that the energy and transport sectors, where quantity surveyors have no official control over project costing and accounting, have seen some of the most stunning cost overruns in current years.

“Engineers are judged by the quality and aesthetics of their designs and therefore, quite rightly, those are their main concerns.

Cost is, nevertheless, a chief consideration for the quantity surveyor, who produces a Bill of Quantities from the engineer’s design. The Bill of Quantities remains the baseline for the project and all payments, and the basis for the final account, which the quantity surveyor must draw up and be able to validate.”

The ASAQS has formerly called for all government projects worth R10 million or more to have a quantity surveyor made accountable for the general project and, mainly, the final accounts in an attempt to stem corruption.

While corruption may be the cause of some cost overruns on big projects, there are many other factors at play. The real point is that a quantity surveyor has the professional expertise and dedication to reach the project costs and quantities suitably, and then guarantee that it remains within scope.

“These are grand projects, and it is highly desirable they are achieved and that the nation gets what it paid for. The best way to make sure that is to get quantity surveyors involved—we are trained to guarantee that a client’s money is spent as initially planned, and that any deviations are correctly documented and authorized before payments are made,” Berry concludes. “We believe government should bear this in mind when it outlines the terms of its tenders.”

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