Government announces strategic integrated infrastructure projects

Published: Thursday, August 13, 2020

Legal Current AffairsGovernment

The Minister of Public Works and Infrastructure, Patricia de Lille, MP and Head of Investment and Infrastructure in The Presidency, Dr Kgosientsho Ramokgopa, have recently announced the gazetting of the Strategic Integrated Projects. 

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SAICE 2020 President Mopilwane Fana Marutla highlights the high unemployment rate of 30.1% that the country is currently facing as being a critical challenge. Stats SA has recently published its latest Quarterly Labour Force Survey for the three months to March 2020. The survey indicates that South Africa’s unemployment rate rose in the first quarter of 2020 to 7.1 million. If one compares quarter 1 of 2020 which is 30.1% and quarter 4 of 2019 which was 29.1%, there has been an increase of 1% within a period of three months. Marutla comments, “we are expecting the figures for the second quarter of 2020 to increase further as a result of the impact of Covid-19. The projects outlined in the Strategic Integrated Projects will certainly assist in reversing the trend of unemployment in South Africa. We need our engineers to be employed and this is certainly a step in the right direction and has our full support”.

The Construction COVID-19 Rapid Response Task Team (CCRR19TT) was established at the outset of the Covid-19. This task team comprises an industry grouping that was convened to charter a plan to address current and future threats to the built environment industry. SAICE supported the industry’s call for activation of planned public infrastructure spending as announced in the medium-term expenditure framework (MTEF), for positive knock-on effects on economic recovery and growth through the multiplier effect, as well as the reactivation of the various sectors of the construction industry in an attempt to minimise the economic impact on the construction industry and reduce the loss of employment of hundreds who serve the industry.

The Strategic Integrated Projects initiative will see the unlocking of infrastructure investments that are valued at more than R360 billion and the creation of some 260 000 much needed jobs in the sector. Marutla comments that in terms of the rolling out of the 18 projects detailed in the Strategic Integrated Projects list, they would all be at various stages of the project life cycle. “My understanding is that some of the projects are at the concept stage of the initial stages of development, while other projects are in the process of being executed. There are five stages of the project life cycle, and most major projects need to go through these stages in order for them to be implemented”.

SIDS methodology
A new methodology known as the Sustainable Infrastructure Development System (SIDs) is being used to implement this first wave of projects. The methodology will be used to converge the various supporting approvals and support process to one place, to streamline project implementation. SAICE CEO Vishaal Lutchman comments that the SIDS methodology is related to the identification, consideration, evaluation, approval and implementation of workable infrastructure to ensure bankability, and will not be a burden to the fiscus. Government intends to leverage its balance sheet even further to provide the developers with guarantees and security to raise the funding required for these projects.

There is a new method for project pipeline execution that makes use of a single-entry point for all the projects. This means all of the projects in the country now are going to be run, monitored and coordinated through this new unit that is called the Investment and Infrastructure unit, which is led by Dr Kgosientsho Ramokgopa. “This makes good sense that the government will be centralizing how projects are managed, as this will ensure the central accountability of what’s happening out there, and should to some extent minimise the corruption as well”, says Marutla.

Lutchman says: “SAICE advocates that with the projects which will serve to achieve certain targets with the National Development Plan 2030, there has to be focus and prioritisation on achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), as they apply to South Africa. Since we committed to these SDGs, we have not been able to move fundamentally in achieving SDG#9 and SDG#5, which describe technology & innovation and gender equality. As a country we have already committed to agreeing as it pertains to us - the two mentioned goals go hand in hand growing our new economy”. 

What is important is that the beneficiaries and stakeholders will be engaged during the process which is essential. The people who are going to benefit from the project will be involved and will also agree to some of the project’s basic processes and procedures. What is also important is that the methodology appears to follow the full project life cycle phases. This includes the initiation phases of portfolio planning, followed by project planning which includes pre-feasibility, preparation and briefing and then feasibility, concept and viability. Thereafter design and procurement, execution including construction and commissioning through to the final phase of close out.

On discussing the accountability of our infrastructure and what is SAICE’s perspective on the corruption that is plaguing the sector, Lutchman mentions that we need something similar to the Scorpions to be put in place to combat the problems of corruption we have in this country. “In addition to punitive measures postulated by President Cyril Ramaphosa, SAICE recommends that the country campaigns and focuses on eradicating the intention to perform corrupt acts. In addition to corruption signaling greed, we score many own goals in so far as stealing the future of our children, hurting development whilst lamenting the ill effects of inequality. The enforcement of rules to prevent corruption are man-made and so man is able to also break such rules, hence the effort put into enforcement should be weighed in balance with a drive to persuade, influence, educate with emphasis on one’s moral conscience that corruption is a social injustice”. 

Civil engineering skills in numbers
The Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI) is in the process of putting together a database of skills and capacity. SAICE has over 16000 civil engineering members, which cumulatively is significant. Marutla highlights the importance of using own people and our own skills to build South Africa’s infrastructure. SAICE has a lot to offer the government in the rolling out of these substantial projects.

The 18 projects listed on the Strategic Integrated Projects list, include projects in the following sectors:
Water and Sanitation, Energy, Transport, Digital Infrastructure, Human Settlements etc.

“It is important to highlight the extensive skill level that SAICE members have, offering many years of experience in these specific project fields. With the expertise and knowledge of our members, Government will have the confidence of knowing that our members can deliver on these significant projects. SAICE and our members are available to support and assist Government by providing skills and capacity” states Marutla.

On discussing the importance of having qualified Civil Engineers in the decision-making process, Lutchman says that he believes in having people who are more qualified and knowledgeable to lead at the front. This is because they have the experience, have grown through the ranks and are in the position to lead effectively. Having qualified civil engineers in Government, service providers, advisors and contractors is critical to ensure the infrastructure delivery system is well capacitated to deliver on South Africa’s economic resurrection initiatives.

Lutchman adds that SAICE is embarking on further enhancing the level of skills available to the industry as provided by our members to reach even higher levels of technical excellence, to easily step into leadership positions in organisations involved in the development, operations and maintenance of civil engineering infrastructure.

South African’s most critical infrastructure requirements
“When I wrote my Matric in 1991, we did not have electricity at home so I had to use a candle light to study at night, paraffin light if the candle is finished so I wrote my matric using candle light and paraffin light. Whilst we have made progress in infrastructure development, there’s still so much that must be done. The most critical infrastructure that is required is water and sanitation - Water is life. This is followed by the electrification of the villages and townships. Roads are also very important infrastructure, they make economic life easier, people can travel from one place to another and are important in economic development. These are the areas where the bulk of the infrastructure must be done” says Marutla.

Operations and maintenance

As a final note, in the announcement of the Strategic Integrated Projects, Minister de Lille spoke about infrastructure across its entire lifecycle. “This is not just about the new infrastructure but including the maintenance and upgrading of existing infrastructure”. Marutla explains that if you consider the total lifecycle of a project, the total costs of this stage alone are between 60 and 80% of the asset. 

In other words, if you have an asset which has a lifespan of 30 – 40 years, the main cost lies within the operation and maintenance of it. The importance of operation and maintenance being included in these Strategic Integrated Projects cannot be understated – it is often overlooked and not accommodated for.

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