SA Public Works To Boost Inhouse Professional & Technical Capacity

Pretoria - The Department of Public Works is set to invest more funds in developing in-house technical capacity, which in the long run will help it to save money that is currently paid to consultants.

This emerged after Minister Thulasi Nxesi met with Public Works MECs in Johannesburg over the weekend to develop strategies to enhance service delivery.

Among the issues discussed was the need to address the lack of professional and technical skills, given the fact that Public Works is a highly technical department.

This, according to the department, means recruiting from the private sector, as well as inserting clauses into construction contracts to require contractors to train young engineers and artisans. The department will determine the minimum basket of skills required nationally and provincially.

The discussions also centred on developing and capacitating emerging black construction contractors, whilst strengthening sanctions - including blacklisting - against non-performing contractors to enhance service delivery.

Also taking part in the meeting was the Construction Industry Development Board (CIBD) - a public entity which reports to the Minister of Public Works. CIBD is concurrently reviewing the regulatory framework to ensure it enhances, rather than inhibits, contractor development.

The meeting also explored the use of alternative construction methods (ACMs) to tackle the issue of mud schools. Pilot schemes have been completed in the Eastern Cape and North West provinces.

These methods produce buildings that in most instances are better than conventional buildings, in that they are more sustainable, cheaper and quicker to erect.

Nxesi also explained the implications of the recently announced national infrastructure roll out plans.

"The effective roll out of the Strategic Integrated Projects (SIPs) ... the revitalisation of health facilities and the national school building programme, require that Public Works, nationally and provincially, together with client departments, local authorities and implementing bodies work closely together to ensure effective delivery.

"This means maximum coordination and changing the way we work to reduce delays and cut through the bureaucracy. The roll out of health and education infrastructure will also stimulate further economic activity in communities and job creation," said Nxesi.

Professor Shadrack Gutto, constitutional law expert and public policy commentator, was invited to present a legal opinion and research findings on the application of cooperative governance and concurrent mandates, concepts which are central to improving coordination between the spheres of government.

He concluded that whilst minor legislative or regulatory changes might be necessary, much could be done administratively to strengthen coordination between the spheres, including developing a memorandum of understanding to clarify roles and responsibilities.

A resolution was taken to, among other things, request Professor Gutto to undertake further research, whilst joint structures are established to identify the areas that need to be covered in a memorandum of understanding and to encourage greater cooperation and interaction between provinces to share experiences and best practices.

As examples, the MEC of the Eastern Cape - where ACMs have been used to replace mud schools - invited other provinces to visit these schools, whilst the Western and Northern Cape provinces discussed cooperation to address skills deficits.

The national department will also coordinate with provincial departments to further enhance reliability of the Immovable Assets Register of state assets.

- BuaNews