MUNICIPALITIES & ECSA: COLLABORATION NECESSARY FOR THE BENEFIT OF THE PUBLIC

JOHANNESBURG: The opportunity exists for closer collaboration between municipalities and the body regulating the engineering profession in order to ensure that the constitutional right to service delivery of every South African is met. This has stemmed from the challenges faced by municipalities in ensuring a seamless flow of service delivery and an ongoing focus on quality infrastructure development.

This was outlined during the panel discussion around municipal service delivery challenges, with the panel comprising Executive Mayor of Ekurhuleni, Cllr Mondli Gungubele; Executive Mayor of Midvaal, Cllr Bongani Baloyi in his capacity as SALGA’s chairperson Municipal Trading Services; Deputy Public Protector, Advocate Kevin Malunga, and Engineering Council of South Africa (ECSA) Executive Education Standards and Policies, John Cato.

Speaking on behalf of the people, Advocate Malunga indicated that the bulk of queries coming to the office of the Public Protector in the last financial year have been targeted at municipalities. Out of the complainants received, the highest number was against municipalities, with the top five complaints being:

  • Poor service delivery
  • Land and housing
  • Billings & service delivery
  • Tender process irregularities
  • Housing delivery gone wrong

“The number of requests we have received speaks to the public’s frustration in the ability of the state to provide public services to its residents,” said Advocate Malunga.

With a mandate which speaks to ensuring a democratic and accountable local government for communities, SALGA has a vital role to play in ensuring that the lost faith is restored. In outlining some of the challenges experienced by local government in its 15 year trajectory, Cllr Baloyi indicated that in some instances, unregistered engineers had delivered unacceptable work, resulting in a municipalities being unable to provide some critical services to its constituents. “Our primary objective is to ensure the provision of services to communities in a sustainable manner, with our residents as the primary focus of our work,” said Cllr Baloyi. The first 15 years of local government’s existence has seen some significant successes, although there is room for improvement. “We have seen great achievements in the last 15 years, but we still need to do more work. It may appear as if we have not met all of our targets. However, as you can imagine, the population has grown, and this has meant that we need to keep improving our delivery to meet the growing demands of the communities we serve,’ Baloyi added.

Speaking specifically about the Ekurhuleni Municipality, Cllr Gungubele said that their ability to provide quality service has been impaired by poor standards of work. “It costs our municipality more to fix engineering work that has not been executed professionally in the first place. In Ekurhuleni, the focus is on how we can make the entire value chain of service delivery simpler, better and faster,” he added. Ekurhuleni, through the construction of the O.R Tambo Cultural Precinct, has demonstrated that there is local engineering expertise that can offer specialised services to its community, such as a solar farm producing 200KW of energy; and efficient technologies such as rain water harvesting and waste water management. “This facility generates its own resources and recycles the waste as well,” added Gungubele.

In responding to the challenges outlined by the local government and municipal stakeholders, ECSA emphasized its role as the regulator of the profession, which includes setting standards; the registration of persons who meet educational requirements in candidate categories; and registration of persons in professional categories who demonstrate competency against the prescribed standards for the different categories.

In addition to this ECSA has a role to ensure that the code of conduct is adhered to by all registered engineering practitioners in their engineering activities. This was welcomed by the stakeholders, who indicated the need for closer collaboration in ensuring the standards set by ECSA are the same that are insisted on in service delivery roll-out, across all local government structures.

In outlining the solutions to some of these challenges, ECSA recommended the professionalization of systems at municipal level, which would ensure that professionals are empowered to do their jobs through an appreciation by administrators, of the nature and value of engineering. ECSA stressed the need for consideration to be given to creating a central tender awarding system at a national level which must then be supported by professional assessment and consultation.

There are also challenges at an operational level for engineers working within local government, and we would recommend greater delegation of tasks, as technical staff is not given the authority to make importance decisions – with decision-making being an integral part of the engineering process. Engineers working in local government are often not in a position to sign off their projects and make decisions. “The need to return authority to line management cannot be over-emphasized,’ said John Cato of ECSA.

The meeting adjourned with an agreement from all stakeholders that there is a need for a regular predicted interaction, working on specific milestones and deliverables per region.

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ECSA REGISTERS ENGINEERS – REGARDLESS OF THEIR NATIONALITY

 

JOHANNESBURG: The spotlight has recently been shone on the engineering profession, stemming from the deployment into the Freestate Province, of a group of non-South African engineers, to service the province’s engineering needs.

Questions have arisen from various sources, directed to the Engineering Council of South Africa (ECSA) about the suitability of these engineers to service the South African population. It would be irresponsible for ECSA to venture out of its gazetted mandate, into the territory reserved for the employers of the group in question, and respond to the questions of who, why, how etc. It is not ECSA’s role or mandate to offer responses on these issues.

ECSA’s only concern is the need for these individuals to be registered with the council, which is determined by the scope of engineering work they have been contracted to undertake. If they will be required to take responsibility for the engineering work, and sign it off as complete, they are required to be registered with ECSA.

In order to understand ECSA’s stance on this matter, it must be understood that ECSA has been born out of the Professions Act, 2000, with its primary role being to regulate the engineering profession in accordance with the Act. The full extent of the regulation of the engineering profession includes the registration of every level and category of engineering and the renewal thereof; accreditation of engineering programmes in institutes of higher education around South Africa; and the evaluation and recognition of qualifications.

The process of registration of an individual with ECSA is structured into two segments: the evaluation and recognition of educational standards; and the assessment of that individual’s competence.

The recognition and evaluation of qualifications is a standard procedure for registering all individuals, regardless of their nationality, and is measured according to the educational standards set in the Washington, Sydney and Dublin accords. Any applicant who obtained their qualification in any of the countries that are signatories to the three accords (of which South Africa is a signatory to all three) will have an automatic recognition of their qualifications as they would have graduated from engineering programmes that are benchmarked against an international standard as agreed in the three accords. Other applicants with qualifications obtained in non-signatory countries (such as Cuba, France, Germany, Zimbabwe) will go through a qualification evaluation process, where ECSA will have to contact that institute of higher learning that issued the degree, to determine the standard of that qualification.

The evaluation of qualifications is marked against the base degree in a category, which means that if an individual has attained an honours degree in a particular discipline of engineering, it does not enhance their chances of registration.

Once the qualification evaluation process is complete, the next phase can commence, which is the assessment of competence based on that applicants’ experience, to determine which category of registration they qualify for. Again, this process is the same for South African and non-South African applicants. The applicant is required to demonstrate experience in their chosen discipline of a minimum of three years, under the supervision and mentorship of a registered engineering professional. This assessment, which is conducted by a peer-review panel, seeks to interrogate the applicant’s competence to work in the designated category. This would be both practical work, as well as the demonstration of strong problem-solving abilities.

Once this process is completed, and the peer-review panel is satisfied that the applicant is suitable to be registered, registration is conferred, and that individual is categorised as a professional in the appropriate category.

The issue of the origin of an engineer is irrelevant to ECSA in the registration process, as demonstrated by the fact that in excess of 1 300 non-South African engineers are currently registered with ECSA, working across different categories and disciplines of engineering in South Africa.

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