CONSULTING Engineers South Africa (CESA) commends Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana for taking on the challenging task of delivering the Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement (MTBPS), particularly considering the current economic conditions and the numerous challenges we face as a country, says CEO Chris Campbell.
Value for money infrastructure
We emphasise the need for a ‘value-for-money’ perspective in infrastructure projects, says Campbell. While pursuing cost-effective solutions is important, we must ensure that we are not compromising the quality and long-term effectiveness of our engineering services. Otherwise, we may mistakenly believe we are saving funds in this area in the short term. Over time, this cost-saving strategy could actually prove to be more expensive for the country. Specifically, when it comes to professional engineering services, opting for the cheapest option may not necessarily address the complex infrastructure challenges we are trying to solve.
Campbell says that, in terms of infrastructure delivery, we require a much more diligent and assertive stance from the government in addressing corruption and dealing with elements like the construction mafia. These challenges only serve to hinder our efforts in driving infrastructure development. We must continue to prioritise infrastructure development, as it serves as a catalyst for economic growth and job creation in the short term.
Implementation of the Public Procurement Bill
We also urge the Minister to expedite the implementation of the Public Procurement Bill, particularly the infrastructure and preferential procurement regulations, Campbell says. The current discrepancies in requirements set by various government entities have led to operational chaos within the business environment, and as an example, these entities appear to not be aware of the change of approach that Sanral has adopted. While this information is in the public domain, it seems that not everyone has fully grasped its implications and this inefficiency is something we cannot afford, as it threatens to impede progress and slow down the overall process.
The government’s call for increased private sector involvement in infrastructure financing and expertise, as well as other initiatives, as mentioned in the MTBPS, is a positive step. Restoring trust between the public and private sectors is paramount and it is important that we wholeheartedly welcome the partnerships required between both these sectors. For too long, we have hesitated to engage in such collaborations. Given the constraints of the national budget, this hesitancy is no longer viable; it has become a necessity. Disregarding the private sector’s role in funding is not an option. Additionally, it is crucial to highlight that a greater degree of policy and political certainty will be essential to ensure that the public and private sectors embrace partnership opportunities, Campbell continues.
We must acknowledge that there has always been a level of mistrust between the public and private sectors. However, let’s point out that involving the private sector is essential at this stage. We must draw lessons from the success of the Covid-19 vaccine rollout programme – it was made possible through strong partnerships, albeit under crisis conditions. We are currently facing a crisis, whether we like it or not. In this critical time, it’s important to address and rectify this trust deficit to the fullest extent possible, Campbell concludes.