MINISTER of Public Works and Infrastructure (PWI) Sihle Zikalala (pictured), recently issued an extensive update on the department’s policies and plans to deliver infrastructure, create jobs, and transform the built environment, as well as fight crime and corruption in the sector.
He mentioned ‘operation bring back’ which sees the department getting back lost, stolen, or illegally occupied properties; and the Welisizwe rural bridges project, through which it aims to build 96 rural bridges. He said that the department is repackaging the extended public works programme (EPWP) and also explained how the department is planning to create more jobs by doing more maintenance, refurbishing, repairing and cleaning jobs in-house.
With regards to Strategic infrastructure projects (SIP), he said that, since the gazetting of the projects in 2020, projects to the value of R4.63-billion had been completed, mostly in the transport sector.
He said that within the first six months of this year, R164-billion worth of SIP projects were in the procurement phase and R245-billion were in the construction phase.
Among other policy and strategic initiatives covered included an update on the construction industry recovery plan (CIRP) which he said provides a focused approach for the inclusive development of the construction industry. The plan is due to be brought before Cabinet Committees and Cabinet for approval. It includes the public and private sectors.
“We will unveil the full plan soon as it will represent a defining moment in our efforts to revitalise the construction sector, encapsulating our unwavering commitment to driving economic prosperity, fostering social inclusivity, advancing transformation, and championing environmental sustainability. We are putting the building blocks to build a construction industry that not only meets the demands of our time but also paves the way for a brighter and more prosperous future,” Zikalala said.
Progress on resolving blocked and stalled projects
Zikalala said that, to unlock and address challenges of stalled projects, the following measures are in place:
- All delayed projects and their challenges have been identified and intervention measures with clear action plans with start and finish dates are put in place followed by strong monitoring mechanisms for implementation targeting various role players to management level.
- Turnkey implementation methodology has been adopted to implement projects and will save longer duration periods associated with planning, design and procurement.
The close monitoring of projects will be enhanced by the establishment of the outsourced programme management units that the department is in the process of establishing.
Stopping disruption of construction sites
Recognising the impact of the ‘construction mafia’ on the industry, Zikalala said, “Since the law enforcement agencies are prioritising this crime there is a glimmer of hope that eventually we will win the war against those involved in extortion, hijacking and disruption of construction sites.
“While the practice is still rife and keeps morphing to other areas using intimidation as a tactic, we are confident that we will overcome this criminal practice. To assist the construction sector, we are establishing a call centre for speedy reporting of construction disruptions and this will support the assigned law enforcement units to this priority crime. It is important that police act swiftly and that those involved are caught in the act. We appeal to construction companies not to be cowed into submission by complying with this criminal conduct.”
Dealing with contractors short-changing government
Zikalala said that one of the major challenges identified that impacts on the delivery of infrastructure projects and eventually on growth and employment prospects in the country, is the lack of consequence management for contractors shortchanging the state.
“We have resolved to stem the cross-functional tide of rampant corruption by unscrupulous contractors that are fleecing government through shoddy workmanship and deceitful liquidations. The department has appointed a restriction committee and authority (RCAA) that is composed of cross-functional expertise including GRC, legal services, supply chain, construction specialists, security services and internal control representatives.”
The Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB)
“We are accelerating the Construction Industry Development Board Amendment Bill through the proper legal processes. The Bill is intended to expand the scope of CIDB’s development interventions to the private sector; to provide for improved compliance and enforcement of CIDB prescripts; to expand the scope of the construction industry registers to include other industry participants, such as professional service providers.
“We have also directed the CIDB to establish an ombudsman office for the construction industry. The Ombudsman will serve as an independent body for resolving disputes in the construction industry.”
Zikalala said the culture of non-performance by contractors in both public and private projects must be addressed. “Due to the risk and poor performance by some contractors, we have recommended to the CIDB to implement processes and assess registration requirements. We are committed to ensuring that contractors that offer poor quality work or those that at times are involved in corruption need to be removed from the CIDB register of contractors,” he said.