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Only 4 percent of engineers believe the government was delivering on its promises on infrastructure expenditure, according to a new survey. The PPS Graduate Professional Index surveyed 400 South African engineers. Motshabi Nomvethe, technical marketing specialist at PPS, said 91 percent of the respondents did not think the government would meet the infrastructure objectives set out in the National Development Plan (NDP). In terms of the NDP, key services such as commercial transport, energy, telecommunications and water had to be strengthened by 2030 to ensure long-term sustainability. The survey results revealed that 36 percent of respondents indicated concern that unemployment in the country would encourage skilled professionals to work overseas.
Vaughan Rimbault, chief executive of the South African Institution of Mechanical Engineering, said there was a need for proactive collaboration between the government and engineering professionals to counter these issues. “The government is the biggest potential client for any engineering company, so when massive construction projects are rolled out it is vital that engineers with the right engineering skills are chosen to do these projects. “Improved collaboration between the government and engineering associations will facilitate communication and in turn encourage support from these professionals to have more faith in the government’s infrastructure expenditure,” he said.
The latest Consulting Engineers South Africa (Cesa) bi-annual economic and capacity survey for the six months to June revealed the outlook for gross fixed investment had deteriorated and was expected to fall behind gross domestic product growth in the next three years. The survey report, of more than 537 firms employing in excess of 24 315 staff, who collectively earn a total fee income of R25 billion a year, said the public sector remained the most important client to the consulting engineering industry, but the contribution by the public sector to total fee earnings moderated to 58 percent in June from 60 percent in December last year, because of the decrease in fee earning from central government to 4 percent from 5.9 percent.
Rimbault said government also had a responsibility to employ local South African businesses to handle big projects rather than employing skills from overseas. Cesa echoed this view, stressing that regulation issues were one of the biggest challenges faced by the industry. The association said unrealistic tendering fees remained a concern for members, the involvement of non-Cesa members in government tenders and procurement continued to threaten the standard and performance of the industry. Cesa claimed companies from across South African borders were tendering at rates that were not competitive for local companies. Despite this concern, Nomvethe said it was extremely positive to note that 64 percent of the respondents to the PPS survey indicated that they would encourage their children to enter the engineering profession, with 51 percent stating that this was because the skills were really needed in South Africa.