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Felix Fongoqa, President of Consulting Engineers South Africa (CESA) and I attended the 2008 International Federation of Consulting Engineers (FIDIC) Conference held in Quebec.  This annual event played host to almost 70 member countries out of a total of 75, with South Africa being well represented with 22 delegates at the conference. 

The conference was a resounding success with a great venue, interesting content and a wonderful networking platform.  The conference was preceded by a meeting of 30 FIDIC Directors representing countries across the globe.  I gave a presentation to the meeting of Presidents on The Group of Africa Member Associations (GAMA) and to the GAMA delegates on preparations for the GAMA Conference that is being held in Durban from 15 to 18 March 2009.



The Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac, where the Conference was held

The keynote speech given by John Ralston entitled, ‘Engineers Shape Your World’ highlighted the fact that engineers are at the forefront of change in society.  He contended that globalisation is dead and that we need to move out of our old mindset by ‘thinking small as well as big’.  Engineers need to be a force that changes society and in particular engineering education.  Environmental concerns featured prominently and it was stated that the Group of 8 nations emit 80% of the world’s green house gases.

The cornerstones of FIDIC being Quality – Integrity – Sustainability – Profitability were discussed in detail and a training programme around these key issues has been developed. Quality was discussed in relation to Quality Based Selection; Integrity was discussed in terms of Business Integrity Management System (BIMS) and Government Procurement Integrity Management System (GPIMS). Sustainability can be addressed through the Project Sustainability Management Toolkit and finally engineers are in business to make a profit and do not have to apologise for the fact.

An entire session was also devoted to the issue of Ethics and Integrity and an interesting presentation on Advocacy was presented by Dave Raymond of the American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC). I also attended a very interesting workshop on the issue of consulting engineers and their role as the Trusted Advisor as well as an enlightening presentation on Communication in the Engineering fraternity.  A very interesting plenary session was held on client expectations representing the views of a number of clients including Hydro, Quebec; Rio Tinto, Canada; the City of Amman, Jordan and Singapore Public Utilities Board with Quality Based Selection (QBS) or the two envelope method being the way to go. It was stated in another session that QBS promotes innovation, saving in life cycle costs, satisfies public interest and encourages competition based on merit. The challenge is to promote QBS more effectively.

Our Young Engineer of the Year, Andries van Wageningen and Chairperson of the YPF Kieren Brown attended the conference together with a large contingent of young engineers from South Africa some of whom were lucky enough to have attended the annual FIDIC management and leadership training programme.

Graham Pirie



South African YP’s: from left to right, Kieren Brown (MPA Consulting), Ian Pollard (Bigen), Ramolin Naidoo (SSI), Heena Bhana (Vela VKE), Llewellyn Jacobs (Bigen), Brandon Naidoo (SSI).



South African YPMTP participants with their Mentor (centre) : Ian Pollard (Bigen), Ramolin Naidoo (SSI), Llewellyn Jacobs (Bigen), Heena Bhana (Vela VKE)



From left to right: Ben Chan (Australia), Kieren Brown (South Africa), Timothy Mugabe (Uganda), Fabian Sommer (Switzerland)



Frederic Verheyde (Australia), Llewellyn Jacobs and Ian Pollard of Bigen Africa



Brandon Naidoo – head of Young-SSI, Kieren Brown






The 3rd annual CESA/SAFCEC Conference recently held at Fancourt in the Eastern Cape was once again a resounding success attended by prominent decision makers in the Contracting and Consulting Engineering industry.

Graham Pirie CEO of CESA and Henk Langenhoven CEO of SAFCEC commented in a joint statement, “The success of the conference lay in both the calibre of the speakers as well as the attendees from both Organisations.” In a survey conducted at the conference it was found that of the over 200 delegates from Consulting Engineers South Africa (CESA) and the South African Federation of Civil Engineering Contractors (SAFCEC) that attended the conference 23% were Owners of their organizations with a  further 45% Executive Members and 25% Senior Managers.  The conference was preceded on the Sunday by a Golf Day, once again sponsored by Barloworld Equipment and the conference culminated in a gala dinner sponsored by ABSA.

conference room

Opening and Political Analysis
Delegates were welcomed by Felix Fongoqa, President of CESA who commented that the conference was a wonderful opportunity for consultants and contractors to voice their opinions and share experiences as they are part of an industry that is ‘Full of Possibilities’. The first speaker Xolela Mangcu a political analyst and newspaper columnist, gave the conference a fascinating and insightful presentation.  In his presentation he gave his opinion on 3 issues, the first being whether changes in politics will translate into policy changes; secondly our political leadership; and thirdly whether we will see the formation of a new political party and what that might bring about. Xolela contended that the impact on economic policy whichever candidate came to power was unlikely to be significant.  He also strongly believes that as a country we need a more accommodative leadership. He concluded by stating, “We have come to the end of history as we know it with no more “big” leaders, this has been replaced with political contestation among peers”.

Macro Economics
Jeff Gable, head of Research at ABSA Capital commented that we are currently in an ‘interesting and fraught time’ with banks both in Europe and the United States going bankrupt on the back of the US subprime crisis. He states that we are in for a significant global economic slowdown. The impact of local interest rates rising 5 basis points in a short period together with the introduction of the National Credit Act and triggered by the Eskom crisis earlier this year has resulted in a rapid decline in business confidence. Although he predicts that 2009 will see interest rates falling, wages rising with more affordable housing leading to a recovery in the economy and an improvement in consumer sentiment towards the end of 2009.  Although he warns that the electricity crisis is a problem forgotten, but not solved, and that a stable electricity supply is crucial for a growing economy.

China’s Involvement in Infrastructure in Southern Africa
Dr Martyn Davies, CEO of Frontier Advisory, Executive Director of the Centre for Chinese Studies at Stellenbosch University and Director of the Asian Business Centre at the Gordon Institute of Business Science gave a fascinating presentation on the ‘Africa and China Coupling’.  He presented the scenario that currently the Eastern economy is booming while the Western economy is collapsing with this year marking the 10th anniversary of China/SA ties.  He states that it is imperative that we minimize the disconnect between Government and Business to better engage with the Chinese in order to operate as a coordinated single entity to better manage and control the process.  He states that China views Africa as a key emerging market and that they are pursuing it primarily for energy security as China’s long term growth depends on securing an energy supply as well as commodity supply chains. China is currently South Africa’s second largest trading partner after the USA.

The Value of Occupational Health and Safety in the Workplace
An interesting presentation was given by Pero James of AECI about the ‘Value of Occupational Health and Safety in the Workplace’ in which he stated that it was short sighted to ignore legislation as the risk involved is too costly.  He also strongly believes that it is important that safety is part of the culture of an organization and should not merely be seen as a programme. It’s all about leadership and successful OHS starts at the top of an organization.

Sustainable Construction and the role of the Green Building Council of South Africa
Bruce Kerswill, Chairman of the newly created Green Building Council of South Africa states in his presentation that the construction industry could provide the greatest saving in the least amount of time at the lowest cost as 40% of the world’s energy is consumed by buildings.  It can also be proved that green buildings increase productivity, lower operating costs resulting in higher profits thus ‘Future Proofing Your Building’.  The Green Building Council of South Africa follows the Australian Green Star (SANS204) rating system that has been customized for South African conditions. Projects can be rated at either the design stage or on completion of construction.  In addition to this, the Council is offering a Green Star accredited professional course enabling the attendee to give advice to developers on how to achieve the level of rating required.  Graham Pirie, CEO of CESA is also a Director on the Council and believes that green buildings are compelling from a moral as well as business case aimed at transforming markets globally.

After a motivational talk entitled ‘Living Your Dream’ presented by Tim Biggs, Glenville Cullum, President of SAFCEC closed the conference by thanking the speakers, participants, sponsors and exhibitors for their contribution to a very successful and thought-provoking conference.


Dr Martyn Davies


Xolela Mangcu


Felix Fongoqa


Jeff Gable


Pero James


Glenville Cullum


Graham Pirie


Bruce Kerswill


Henk Langenhoven

council meeting







The beginning of October saw Consulting Engineers South Africa (CESA) as well as the majority of the Construction Education and Training Authority (CETA) employer organisations suspend their participation in the activities of the CETA Council and all its committees.

Organisations including the South African Federation of Civil Engineering Contractors (SAFCEC); the Master Builders South Africa (MBSA); the South African Institute of Architects (SAIA); the Association of South African Quantity Surveyors (ASAQS); and Consulting Engineers South Africa (CESA) have appealed to the Minister of Labour to intervene by placing the CETA under administration so as to put the CETA on a functional operational footing. This action was taken as the Organisations are of the strong opinion that further direct interaction with the CETA to resolve issues will have no effect. Over a period of many years these organisations have tried to engage with the CETA, suggesting solutions to resolve issues without much effect; in fact several problems have worsened during this period.

Representatives of employer organisations have, in terms of the laws of the country, important fiduciary duties to fulfil on behalf of their constituencies, and the governance crisis at CETA has deteriorated to such a degree that they are unable to comply with the law. The CETA’s constitution has been found to be wholly wanting in terms of the statutory/legal/regulatory framework of the land, confirmed in the 2004 Deloitte & Touche report in this regard, coupled with a high level workshop with experts testing the constitution against the Public Finance Management Act. Yet, despite this being known to the CETA Executive Committee and management, very little has been done to rectify the situation. The Associations contend that the problem is compounded by a lack of transparency and frankness from the Executive Committee when these matters are raised. In many instances the CETA acts in contradiction of its own constitution. An example of this is that the chairman has been ‘re-elected’ for a third term, whereas the constitution explicitly prescribes otherwise. The financial management of the organisation leaves much to be desired, as the 4th qualified audit (2007/8) confirms despite warnings and suggestions from the Internal Audit Committee about irregularities.

The organisations state that there is great unhappiness about the relationship between the Executive Committee, the Council and management of CETA. These mainly originate in the erroneous interpretation of the CETA Constitution, in so far that the Executive Committee has de  jure executive power and that the Council is expected to rubber stamp decisions. Several problems which impact directly on the ability of Council members to exercise their fiduciary duties have resulted from this untenable situation. Inadequate and insufficient financial information is made available to Council members for evaluation; it is stated that in one instance the audited statements were not made available to members prior to submission to the Auditor General. The appointment and dismissal of CEO’s, COO’s and CFO’s is handled solely by the Executive Committee or a few members of that committee. There has been massive staff turnover at the CETA, to such a degree that many functions could not be performed due to lack of personnel to administer functions.

These organisations state that the impact of all these issues, and many more, on training and education in the construction sector at a time where, in the words of the late Minister Stella Sicgau ‘The construction sector stands between the SA we now have and the one we want’, is simply intolerable. The dysfunctional committees, reporting structures and communication within the organisation, often make training the last item on the agenda. Large amounts of grant funding for training has not been reclaimed by employers because it is nearly impossible, in particular for small companies, to wade through the red tape. Large amounts have been claimed by others, which have simply not been paid, despite submitting claims several times. Due to this state of affairs, large surpluses of under-utilised levies have built up at a time, when the sector is crying out for more and better qualified personnel. This situation has also led to a number of training service providers not being able to continue operations resulting in them going out of business. The organisations contend that due to the lack of competent staff and systems at CETA, the issuing of certificates for qualifications obtained has been totally unsatisfactory. This situation is a huge frustration for employers and employees alike.  The result of this is that they have been unable to place staff on clients’ sites due to lack of proof of training and applicants have been unable to apply for positions due to lack of evidence of training received. To crown the situation quality assurance has almost been entirely lacking over the last number of years. The end result of all this is that the rate of up-skilling and training of staff to deliver the massive infrastructure projects needed has been severely impeded. Through sheer frustration many large companies in the construction sector have opened their own training centres and are spending millions of rands on training.  In the civil engineering and the consulting fraternity alone, this number is estimated to be in the region of R150 to R200 million per discipline, outside of the CETA system.






Awards were handed to winners at the event by Felix Fongoqa, President of CESA and Johan de Beer, President of IMESA.









The 72nd IMESA conference, exhibition and project excellence awards were held in Bloemfontein at the end of October this year. The theme, Innovation - the Road to Service Excellence, was intended to demonstrate to what extent engineers and suppliers are able to think innovatively. Felix Fongoqa, Godfrey Ramalisa and Graham Pirie attended the conference on behalf of CESA together with around 600 delegates and 80 Exhibitors (of which 15 were CESA member firms). CESA exhibited at the conference and as partners of IMESA were afforded the opportunity of showcasing the organisation’s corporate identity DVD at the awards banquet.



The highlight of the conference for Godfrey Ramalisa, Client Liaison for CESA and YPF representative, was the arrival at the conference of approximately 100 learners from various secondary schools. Ramalisa commented that they brought the exhibition stands to life asking some very interesting questions. The visit by the learners to the conference was an initiative of the CESA YPF in conjunction with IMESA and various member firms in the Bloemfontein area. After visiting the conference exhibition stands the learners stayed on for lunch and then attended two afternoon sessions, one was a motivational presentation and the other was a presentation on the Gautrain. Some of the learners then opted to go on a site visit to the Vodacom Park Stadium. Felix Fongoqa, CESA President and Johan de Beer, IMESA President also took time out to address the learners.

A keynote speaker at the conference included, Dr. Iraj Abedian, board member of the DBSA and Economic Advisor for ASGISA, who stated that it does not matter whether government jumps to the left or the right as long as they have the capacity to deliver to the poor which means, whoever is in power has to develop the machinery of the state as a top priority.  He went on to state that as far as our economic outlook is concerned, although there may be a few minor wobblies, the long time growth trajectory is still on track in so far as the consulting and construction sector is concerned.






The results of the bi-annual Consulting Engineers South Africa (CESA) Management Information Survey (MIS) for the period January to June 2008 recently released indicates that the industry continues to boom with fee income increasing from R10,5 billion to R14,7 billion in the past year and staff increasing from 16 700 to 18 300.

Nominal fee income increased by 40% in the first half of 2008 compared to the last six months of 2007 or by 55,4% compared to the same period in 2007. This means that nominal fee income has increased by double digit annual growth rates since December 2004.

The order book in relation to fee earnings for the first six months of 2008, was 109,3%, which is more than double that of the fee earnings reported by firms for the period under review. This is good news for the consulting industry as it suggests further acceleration in fee earnings during the remainder of the year. The increase in engineering costs has surpassed the increase in the CPI from the June 2003 survey, which means the real change in fee income is probably overstated, given the fact that the CPI is used as a nominal fee income deflator.

Almost all the respondents (97%) are experiencing difficulties in the recruitment of engineers in the industry, the most significant problem being to find suitable, qualified and importantly “experienced” engineers.  The problem is also no longer isolated to engineers from a previously disadvantaged background.  Educational Institutions can contribute significantly by ensuring the curriculum followed allows for sufficient practical experience so that a young graduate can be productive from day one when employed by a firm.   Mentorship plays a critical role, but can only be effective if there are engineers available to mentor young graduate entrants.

In spite of the skills shortage employment increased by 9,5% in the first six months of 2008 compared to the last six months of 2007. Demand for staff mainly pivots around the need for engineers, although the percentage of respondents looking for engineers fell from 94,5% in the December 2007 survey to 67,4% in the June 2008 survey. Overall demand for staff has moderated in the last survey, affecting all the major categories including technical staff, technicians, and support staff.  Given the fact that the order book has accelerated, the slowdown in demand for additional skills can be directly linked to the fact that there are simply not enough skills around to employ. On a positive note the mounting shortage of engineering skills in the country has improved the position of the engineering profession in terms of the “value” placed on the consulting engineering profession.  According to a research study by Allyson Lawless, perceptions about the engineering industry are changing. The number of school-leavers enrolling for engineering courses has seen a dramatic increase, with an increasing number of women.

The engineering industry continues to operate at close to 100% capacity, which will sooner or later start to impact on the growth potential in the industry, which cannot continue to increase exponentially without a subsequent increase in resources. Capacity levels of technical staff are dangerously close to 100%, with less than 2% spare capacity in the industry as a whole. Larger firms have more capacity available (average utilization rate 90,9%) compared to medium and smaller firms where the average utilisation rate has exceeded 100%. A nett total of 60% of the respondents expect capacity utilization to increase further reaching critical levels over the next six months.

Competition in tendering generally eases during a time when the availability of work has increased and becomes more severe during times of work shortages. An easing of competition will generally lead to an increase in prices, while prices are consequently cushioned during periods of work shortages due to the fact that many firms tender for the same project. The tendering process is costly and time consuming, and higher levels of competition significantly increases the risk for the engineering firm.   The cumbersome tendering process is also seen as a major hurdle for smaller firms. While the bidding process controls pricing in the industry, uninformed clients that do not understand the terms of reference, adjudicate tenders based solely on price and the BEE component, and do not take into account the quality of services.  Therefore while the correct bidding process may be in place (ensuring free market forces to prevail), the mechanisms used are incorrect, unless bidding is preceded by a pre-qualification process.  CESA, in conjunction with the CIDB are in the process of formulating a Register of Professional Service Providers, which will eliminate firms in the industry that are not adequately qualified to provide professional engineering services. This will result in a process where as clients become better informed, less emphasis should be placed on the ECSA Fee Guidelines, and more on competitive bidding, underlined by the pre-qualification process. 

On a very positive note the overall service of CESA and its Directorate continues to be rated highly among member firms.  The complete MIS report is available on the CESA website at





The government of South Africa has embarked on various projects aimed at fast tracking service delivery which includes infrastructure development.  Different levels of government in South Africa are experiencing difficulties with efficient service delivery as a result of a shortage of the necessary engineering and other professional skills.

Technical support is required to address infrastructure planning, the construction and management of engineering infrastructure, as well as the maintenance functions.  Financial support is also required to facilitate access to finance and to address the financial planning necessary for service delivery.

The Project Development and Facilitation Alliance (PDFA), a recently created Section 21 company, has entered into a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Department of Provincial and Local Government to assist affected municipalities with the efficient rendering of municipal services. In terms of that MoU, the PDFA can source, amongst others, CESA member firms to unlock infrastructure development projects and improve service delivery. The PDFA has also been designated as an implimentation agent by the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry.


Graham Pirie from CESA signing the MoU with Peter Steyn of ABSA





Kieren Brown has been elected as the National Chairperson of Consulting Engineers South Africa’s (CESA) Young Professionals Forum (YPF).  Kieren will be ably assisted by Dr. Michele Kruger who has been elected as National Vice Chairperson of the YPF.

Kieren holds a BTech degree in Industrial Engineering from the University of Johannesburg and is currently studying towards her Masters degree in Transportation Engineering.  She works for MPA Consulting Engineers situated in Randburg and is passionate about maths and science.  Kieren loves working in the Civil Engineering field and states that currently ‘Infrastructure development is the place to be’ with investment in infrastructure, the shift from private to public transport, including non-motorised transport, and the Gauteng Freeway Improvement project, she feels that there is no other place to be.  Kieren loves the fact that she works on such a wide variety of projects and that the best part is that in 20 years time they will all still be here for all to see.

Kieren’s involvement in the YPF started after she returned from spending some time in the United Kingdom to join PD Naidoo and Associates. It was here that Neresh Pather, now COO of PD Naidoo and Associates, was involved in the launch of the CESA YPF in 2004.  She was also inspired by previous CESA YPF Chairperson, Jana van der Merwe when she met her at the CESA Relay and later the CESA Engineering Excellence Awards.  Kieren joined the YPF and shortly thereafter was appointed as Gauteng South Committee Chairperson.   Kieren states that she and Michele - who is also the current YPF Gauteng North branch chair - make a good team and she is looking forward to the year ahead.

Kieren together with the CESA Young Engineer of the Year, Andries van Wageningen, recently returned from attending the International Federation of Consulting Engineers (FIDIC) conference that was held in Quebec, Canada.  She states that it was the most fantastic experience and that she strongly recommends that member firms send their young professionals to attend this conference that is held on an annual basis.  She also recommends the FIDIC Young Professionals Management Training Programme (YPMTP).  Around 8 young professionals from South Africa attended the conference with 4 of them taking part in the YPMTP.








The Group of Africa Member Associations (GAMA) 2009 conference will be held from Sunday the 15th to the Wednesday 18th March 2009 at the Elangeni Hotel in Durban, South Africa.  The theme for the conference is:

“Millennium Development Goals, are Consulting Engineers Ready?”

The conference will focus on the fact that while Africa is the richest continent in terms of resources, it is home to some of the poorest people in the world.  Consulting engineers were challenged at the FIDIC 2008 conference to work closer with society in solving humanity’s problems and to ensure that engineering solutions are appropriate and sustainable.  African engineers have also come to the realisation that technology and systems need to be carefully adapted to suit local conditions.  This conference will focus on addressing some of these issues and ensuring that delegates leave with a wealth of new ideas to implement across the continent in an appropriate and sustainable manner. 

The format of the conference will be a one and half day plenary session followed by the GAMA AGM on Tuesday afternoon with specific business orientated courses and workshops on the Wednesday. 

Optional post conference site visits to several of the exiting new projects being developed for the FIFA World Cup in 2010 are being arranged for the Thursday and Friday. 


Day 1:  Sunday 15th March 2009: Registration and Welcome Cocktails

Day 2:  Monday 16th March 2009: Opening Ceremony and Presentations followed by an event in the evening

Day 3:  Tuesday 17th March:  Plenary presentations in the morning followed by the AGM in the afternoon and the gala dinner in the evening.

Day 4:  Wednesday 18th March:  Courses and Workshops

All those wishing to make a presentation at the conference must please prepare a short synopsis of half a page and submit it via email to the secretariat at by 31st December 2008.  The secretariat will inform potential speakers of acceptance of their proposals by mid January 2009.  Speakers must then submit a draft of their MS PowerPoint presentations to the secretariat by the end February 2009 for final acceptance of their presentations. Remember to reserve this date in your diary and prepare to attend this essential event focusing on consulting engineering in Africa





Sue Davis joined CESA as a financial consultant in August this year to assist with the audit, and liked it so much that she has decided to join the organisation as a permanent employee effective the 1st of November.  Sue studied as a quantity surveyor and thereafter worked on site for 5 years before moving into finance where she has remained for the past 15 years.  Sue is excited to be joining CESA as Financial Manager and is looking forward to the challenge of introducing structure and organisation into the finance department.





The Bepmeds rates and benefits for the 2009 year have been announced. Full details are available on the Scheme’s website

After 6 years of controlled membership growth, 2008 has been a watershed year for Bepmeds. Not only has it maintain a double digit growth rate in members, the Scheme has also extended its target market within the Built Environment by including two further professional associations, the Association of Construction Project Managers (ACPM) and the Institute of Landscape Architects (ILA). CESA is pleased to welcome their support for Bepmeds and continues to endorse Bepmeds as its official medical scheme of choice.

The long term aim of the Council for Medical Schemes is to eliminate savings plans from medical schemes. Bepmeds has already started addressing this issue. This commenced with the elimination of scheme savings and the simultaneous introduction of the Health Saver on the Pro Core option in August 2008. >From January 2009 Health Saver will also be made available to Pro Elite and Pro Basic members on a voluntary top-up basis, although the in-scheme savings will be retained at a rate of 23% on the Pro Elite option.

The trustees of BEPMEDS did commit to looking at new and innovative ways of keeping our members satisfied whilst growing the Scheme to be a dominant player in the Built Environment arena.  On the subject of innovation, Bepmeds is proud to announce an SMS facility from 2009 that will keep members updated on membership changes and Pro Elite savings balances.
The chairman, trustees, principal officer and MMSA as administrators are all committed to providing personal service to Bepmeds members. With so many links in the medical supply chain we cannot say there will never be a glitch, but what we can promise is that, should a member experience a problem, it will be attended to promptly.