South Africans advocating for a new chapter 9 institution to protect engineering and service delivery
Delivering his presidential message as newly elected president for 2020, Sugen Pillay announced that Consulting Engineers South Africa (CESA) supports the Young Professional’s (YPs) advocacy for the establishment of an office of the Engineer-General.
The Engineer-General is expected to be an office established as a Chapter 9-institution, such as the Auditor-General, that would have the mandate to regulate the engineering industry while addressing the huge infrastructure deficit. This office would then be able to counter improper interference by political, legal, finance and human resources departments, in the execution of engineering projects, known to society as service delivery, which is currently a regular occurrence.
Pillay welcomes the establishment of the Infrastructure and Investment Office and is pleased to see that it resides within the Presidency. CESA, calling for an Engineer-General to oversee major infrastructure development in the country, could see this office become the Chapter 9 office of the Engineer-General in the country.
The YPs are the leaders of tomorrow. Their ideal is to “disrupt the status quo” by putting engineering at the forefront of infrastructure development instead of on the backburner which is presently the case, through being recognised by the relevant government institutions. As an industry they are not at the decision-making table where regulatory policies and future large projects are discussed — without the input of suitably qualified, experienced, professionally registered engineers. This affects them detrimentally. The office of the Engineer-General would be instrumental in changing the status quo.
Engineering practitioners are advocating for the institution of an office of Engineer-General to realise the implementation of the objectives of the National Development Plan 2030, using suitably qualified, competent and dedicated engineering professionals, who would address the root cause of the lack of or poor service, and unreliable public infrastructure delivery. The institution of the Engineer-General is a prerequisite if the South African government is to fulfil its mandate of providing the basic needs of all its people according to the Constitution.
The fact is that political survival depends on the engineers, because all election promises are infrastructure-related and can only be delivered by engineers. This further supports the office of the Engineer-General being instituted. The office of the Engineer-General could assist with re-professionalising of infrastructure departments across all tiers of government, as well as ensuring an adequate legislative framework to empower professionally registered engineers to implement projects.
Engineering IS the face of service delivery! It is at the heart of infrastructure development, such as energy, water, transportation, housing, healthcare and education, etc. To ensure appropriate service delivery at the required standards, the reality is that ONLY engineers can make that happen!
The engineers who are requesting the institution of an office of Engineer-General, implore the Presidency and Parliament of the Republic of South Africa, to not allow this good plan to stay a ”plan on paper”, but to implement the proposed strategy for infrastructure development by appropriately qualified engineering practitioners, who will deliver within budget, on time, in an effective and efficient manner. This will impact job creation and service delivery to communities to ensure quality of life for all.
The suggestion is that the Presidency call a ‘lekgotla’ of some kind to include some critical organisations in the infrastructure industry to affirm the idea or identify new ideas to remove the root causes of uneven or no service delivery and rendering engineering unattractive to the brilliant minds, when compared to financial and medical professions.
Alternatively, the engineering organisations or civil society and/or other interested parties could mobilise and engage with the Parliament of the Republic of South Africa and Presidency to intervene to allow engineers to focus their efforts on improving lives and creating jobs through public infrastructure development.
“No country or society today would succeed without the adoption of engineering at some level. Engineering and engineers have had an enormous impact on every aspect of our modern lives.
~ Christopher McFadden”
By Yankho Banda, Marie Ashpole and Godfrey Ramalisa
(The views expressed in this opinion piece are those of the authors and not any organisation(s) the individuals are affiliated to)