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CESA Infrastructure Indaba – Minister Patricia de Lille: We need to start implementing, the patience of our people is running out!

11 March 2020

11 March 2020 Consulting Engineers South
Africa (CESA) is hosting its annual Infrastructure Indaba on 11-12 March 2020
at the Spier Conference Centre, Stellenbosch. Keynote speaker at the event,
Minister of Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI), Patricia de Lille highlighted
the urgency for action in the infrastructure environment. “We are a government
of announcements. We need to start implementing those announcements; the
patience of our people is running out.” She said government must “Khawuleza
we need to hurry up. Our country is in a bad space – if we sink, we sink

The CESA Infrastructure Indaba
was opened by Sugen Pillay, President of CESA who stated that he was looking
forward to fruitful discussions during the Indaba in line with CESA’s theme of
‘A Time for Reflection, Renewal and Regeneration’, stating that, “as a country,
we are going through significant changes with a renewed focus and energy on how
we start planning for the future – there is a renewed sense of hope and
optimism in the country”. CESA wants to contribute and be part of the
discussions focused on this renewal. He discussed the recapacitation of the key
state institutions and the value that CESA can bring to this process by
partnering with government in order to enable a capable state. “CESA is willing
to volunteer our services as the private sector to kickstart the process”,
stated Pillay.

He went on to state that one in
five engineers in the private sector are currently unemployed and that CESA is
willing to find a way to assist government in utilising this capacity. He also
called for a wider debate on implementation models for delivering
infrastructure, where quality should be considered over cost, for the
sustainability of the country’s infrastructure.

Patricia de Lille proved a
thought-provoking keynote speaker and supported Pillay’s suggestion of a deeper
partnership between the private and public sectors. “We will take on the
challenge as we try to build capacity within the DPWI. This will be key in
speeding up the implementation of infrastructure delivery.” She highlighted
that the delivery of much needed social infrastructure will be a priority as
the department reconfigures. “We will give infrastructure the attention it

Minister de Lille painted a
forthright picture of the current state of affairs: “As a country, we are on a
cliff-edge. There is much anxiety as government speaks honestly about the state
of the economy.” She encouraged the private sector to be honest, too. “As much
as there is a profit model, there is also a trust deficit between  government and the private sector, which we
need to work together to mitigate. We need to restore the drive for
collaboration: we cannot do this alone.”

The Minister discussed the
importance of the Presidential Infrastructure Coordinating Unit in improving
the efficiency of infrastructure delivery. Gazetted by the President, the unit will
fall under the DPWI and will be tasked to develop regulations to give effect to
the Infrastructure Act of 2014. “This important piece of legislation has been ignored.
I will work with the unit to develop regulations for preplanning, approvals,
implementation, operations and maintenance.” The department will also be reviewing
the CIDB act related to grading and the register of service providers that
should be compiled, and feedback on this will be given to CESA.

The Infrastructure and Public
Works Bill was mentioned, which is in development and should assist with
coordinating the industry and creating a conducive environment for job creation
in the private sector. The Minister also discussed the R100-billion Infrastructure
Investment Fund, which is a blended fund as the private sector is committed to
adding to it. The fund is managed by the DBSA, although the Minister has
oversight over it. “However, funding alone is not the problem – the problem is
underspending on infrastructure. Preplanning regulations were highlighted as
key in getting implementation back on track. Citing the many stalled projects
across the country, Minister de Lille said that proper preplanning and
preparation will be key in de-risking projects and ensuring smooth delivery.
“We have established an MoU with the British government for funding to
establish pre-project preparation practices, and have been working closely with
Dr Kgosientso Ramokgopa, Head of the Infrastructure and Investment Office in
the Presidency in conducting research over the past 9 months on how to change
planning methodologies.”

The Minister identified the historically
disjointed approach to infrastructure investment, citing poor spatial alignment
across national, provincial and local government spheres of infrastructure. She
also mentioned that finance has taken precedence over the viability and
sustainability of infrastructure development. “We need to change this
fragmented approach by creating one entry point for all infrastructure
development.” She mentioned the National Development Spatial Framework as key
in guiding future planning.

Addressing the concerns regarding
corruption and the Construction Mafia’s interference with projects in private
sector, Minister de Lille said that new projects require 30% local content. “If
we involve the communities in the beginning, we can effectively counter the
bullying in industry in conjunction with the office of the Minister of Police.”

“It is an indictment that we have
engineers without jobs in the country,” concluded de Lille. “We need to use
that capacity to address the broad challenges faced by the industry.” In
conclusion Minister de Lille asked the Sugen Pillay, President of CESA to
create a database of unemployed engineers and invited CESA to develop a
solution together with government before the end of May this year.

CESA Contact details:

Bonolo Nkgodi

Manager: Marketing and Communications

Tel: 011 463 2022                                                                   

[email protected]

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