Together sustaining engineering – delivering NDP priorities

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Keynote speaker at the recent Consulting Engineers South Africa (CESA) conference, Minister Thulas Nxesi of the Department of Public Works, believes that, “Government cannot deliver the National Development Plan (NDP) alone.  It is incumbent on the engineering fraternity to assist Government in delivering the priorities of the NDP and it is clear that engineering underpins these priorities.”

He stated that the Consulting Engineers South Africa conference came at a time when the sector is grappling with the challenges of infrastructure delivery. He went on to say, “The chaos in all the processes and projects is a result of an ‘imbalance’ created by lack of engineering capability within Government and also that combating fraud and corruption is a pillar of the NDP”. Minister Nxesi told delegates that efficient and effective procurement is central to government priorities and that sustainable engineering should lead to sustainable development resulting in a green economy.

The CESA Annual Conference took place in Limpopo from the 9th to 11th November with the theme – “Together Sustaining Engineering – Delivering NDP Priorities”. There was a strong focus on the delivery of the National Development Plan (NDP).  Representation from the Department of Public Works, Transnet, Eskom, SANRAL, DBSA, cidb, Department of Higher Education, ECSA, IMESA and Corruption Watch as well as Consulting Engineers South Africa member firms, ensured lively panel discussions and plenty of opportunity to debate the key issues driving the NDP.

Government through the NDP has identified infrastructure development as key to the socio-economic development of the country. The Consulting Engineering Industry has a large multiplier effect on the development of the infrastructure as consulting engineers are the designers who create the large scale infrastructure projects that employ large numbers of people during construction, operation and maintenance phases of infrastructure. Key topics at the conference included:

·         Infrastructure investment

·         Creating a conducive and transformational environment for procurement

·         The role of education in addressing sectoral lack of capacity

·         Promoting work opportunities for SMME’s.

After the first session was welcomed by Lefadi Makibinyane, CEO of Consulting Engineers South Africa, Abe Thela, President of CESA  set the scene by unpacking the theme – ‘Together Sustaining Engineering – Delivering NDP Priorities’ in which he urged Government to use the NDP to attract people to the engineering sector.

A very relevant and thought provoking keynote address was then delivered by the honorable Minister Thulas Nxesi from the Department of Public Works. Vusi Thembekwayo, one of South Africa’s leading professional speakers captured delegates attention with his world renowned talk, “Economic Development – Unlocking Opportunities”.

In the second session Kate Masaha, Acting HOD from Public Works gave a presentation  followed by presentations by Sinazo Sibisi, Group Executive Manager, Infrastructure Delivery from the DBSA; Logan Pillay, Executive Head, Engineering Centre of Excellence from Eskom; Mervin Joseph, Project Director Technical from Transnet; and Gaillard Rossouw, Building Engineering Lead for Central District, AECOM.

Session 3 – Creating a Conducive and Transformational Environment for Procurement

Inba Thumbiran, Programme Manager, Procurement and Delivery Management from the cidb presented a paper on ‘Improving the capability of the state to deliver infrastructure’. This was followed by a panel discussion – PCES Success Factors and panellists included Jacques Kotze, Global Head of Property and supply chain management from Aurecon; Ismail Essa, SANRAL regional Manager; Tafadzwa Mukwena, YPF Representative from GIBB.

Session 4 – Role of Education in addressing Sectoral lack of Capacity

Alex Kinmont, DDG Special Projects Unit from the Department of Higher Education presented a paper on ‘Engineering skills for strategic infrastructure projects’. This was followed by a presentation by Adrian Peters Vice President of ECSA on ‘Public sector engineering capacity and capability for NDP’. Both speakers joined the panel discussion on ‘Educational initiatives supporting Engineering’. Also joining the panel was Duncan Daries, IMESA President and Imraan Mahomed, representing CESA’s YPF and AECOM.

Session 5 –Promoting work opportunities for SMMEs

The final session was a panel discussion entitled, ‘Promoting work opportunities for SMMEs.  Panellists included Nevin Rajasakran from Zitholele Consulting; Virginia Strong from the WSP Group Africa; Noqobo Bongoza representing the CESA YPF and Hatch Goba; and David Lewis, Executive Director from Corruption Watch.

The conference was wrapped up with the conference resolutions presented by CESA CEO, Lefadi Makibinyane. CESA believes that discussions and resolutions taken at this important conference are imperative in unlocking the mechanisms to lever all the various disciplines to meet the challenges of ensuring quality outcomes, building the economy and creating and sustaining a better South Africa.

Amongst these resolutions was Training & Development and Transformation & Development in the Consulting Engineering Sector to ensure that provisional monies in project fee schedules are spent appropriately to unlock job opportunities for graduate engineers, technicians and technologists while the latter would seek to facilitate Joint-Ventures amongst firms to ensure access to work by Small, Medium and Large consulting engineering firms.

The principle of the Government achieving its developmental objectives through the Private sector was emphasized by the CESA CEO who also made a clarion call that Private Sector companies must endeavour to include the Government and the NDP goals in setting up their Corporate Strategies to ensure that there is a meeting of minds between Government and Business.