Cape Town - The engineering consultancy body CESA on Friday said the government should be spending more on engineering consultants to unlock projects to improve infrastructure spend and infrastructure delivery, which will alleviate inequality, poverty and unemployment.
Consulting Engineers South Africa CEO Graham Pirie, said deputy auditor general Kimi Makwetu's findings released on Thursday on the use of consultants by the government is both a worry and a concern.
"The report does not differentiate the disciplines of the consultants and sort of paints everyone with the same brush.
"There are also no proper management controls in place in terms of payments. This is evident in the fact that the public sector entities as reflected in the 3 spheres of government still owe to the tune of R1bn in delayed payments to consulting engineering firms,” Pirie said, referring to the Bi-Annual Economic and Capacity Survey January to June 2012 published on the industry body's website.
Makwetu on Thursday said eight national government departments spent R24.6bn on consultants over three years. "This was 74% of the R33.5bn spent on consultants nationally."
Makwetu acknowledged that there is a skills crisis. "Where they do not have skills in public sector, they revert to sourcing the skills from private sector, but "to what extent are we getting value from resources from the private sector," he asked.
CESA represents over 480 firms employing just over 22 000 people, who collectively earn a total fee income of almost R17bn per year.
Makwetu was briefing reporters on the Auditor General's performance audit which was conducted on the eight national departments. It also looked at 124 contracts with service providers.
The departments, chosen from 42 nationally, were: correctional services, defence, environmental affairs, health, police, rural development and land reform, transport, and water affairs.
According to the summarised audit outcomes, the defence department spent R10.4bn on consultants from 2008/09 to 2010/11. This was the highest of the eight departments.
All 27 of the contracts correctional services concluded were found to have problems.
"The nature of these significant deficiencies is concerning," Makwetu said.
The environmental affairs and water affairs departments also had a significant number of weaknesses.
Makwetu said the health department was the exception, with successes in some areas. It had spent the least on consultants.
CESA believed that the government should be spending more on engineering consultants to unlock projects to improve infrastructure spend and infrastructure delivery, which will alleviate inequality, poverty and unemployment, said Pirie.
The lack of engineering skills within the government means that consulting engineers play a vital role as the government's trusted advisor to not only ensure sustainable solutions, but also facilitate the transfer of skills and mentorship to government employees to ensure continued service delivery, according to Pirie.