SACPCMP Registrar Nomvule Rakolote told a Public Works committee that Competition Commission rulings could stop construction safety registration.
In the same committee, Public Works and the built environment councils said construction safety registration was too expensive for practitioners, despite heavy subsidies via the CBE.
Deputy minister of Public Works, Jeremy Cronin, and the Council for the Built Environment (CBE), umbrella body of six professional councils, reported to the Public Works parliamentary portfolio committee on several problems in construction safety registration. There are many de-registrations due to high fees.
Ms Priscilla Mdlalose, acting CEO of the CBE, noted seven “challenges experienced by SACPCMP”:
Construction safety registration transformation problems include “a lack of support from employers, and difficulty in the Portfolio of Evidence [to prove construction health and safety experience], as an onerous and highly involved process”.
SACPCMP blames employers
Ms Nomvula Rakolote, Registrar of the SACPCMP, said some black students were not graduating due to lack of experiential learning.
“There is often a gap between graduation and experience. SACPCMP started a programme with the University of Johannesburg (UJ) and Gauteng provincial government, to place students in jobs. Some students also lack business skills.”
Rakolote said: “There is a possibility that health and safety registration could be halted by gazettes introduced by the Competition Commission”.
Professional de-registrations due to high fees
The CBE reported about 9230 de-registrations, mainly due to defaulting on annual fees; and due to failure to comply with continuous professional development [CPD, for which practitioners also have to pay to either watch videos, or attend expensive conferences].
Competition Commission prohibits price-fixing
The Competition Commission has already rejected the second set of exemption applications relating to professional services in the built environment early last year, commented Cygma Sheq CEO, Rudy Maritz.
“Arguing for the importance of the Identification of Work (IDoW), and for guideline professional fees, the CBE and its councils lodged exemption applications to the Competition Commission.
“The Comp Comm investigated, but rejected these applications for identification of work, and for publication of guideline professional fees.”
The ruling determined that the publication of fee guidelines by professional councils, amounts to indirect price-fixing, in contravention of section 4(1)(b)(i) of the Act.
“The Commission also found fee guidelines out of line with international best practice,” said Maritz. “Building industries overseas are moving away from fee guidelines, to increase market competition.
“I already noted this legal problem two years ago, as published in previous comments and articles on construction safety registration issues on Sheqafrica.com.”
Construction health and safety scope too broad
“The Commission’s rulings have opened a can of professional worms. Is the PCMP Act, which requires the SACPCMP to publish construction health and safety fee guidelines, unlawful? Did the SACPCMP misinterpret “guideline” as a price list, instead of a guide to calculating professional fees?
“The Comp Comm ruling disables enforcement of registration, since construction health and safety work may not be reserved for registered persons only,” commented Maritz.
“The construction safety work Scope of Services is so broadly termed, that many people could be out of work if they did not register. And the bar has been set so high, that only a few have managed to clear it.
“Some practitioners with many years of experience and degrees remain at CHS Candidate level. Some left construction health and safety, or left South Africa (small wonder there are few CHS mentors).
“But some people have already made CHS a career, and are kept out of the job market by employers advertising for registered people,” said Maritz.
Too few construction safety registrations
“The straw that will break the construction safety registration camel’s back is Construction Regulation 5(5). After two years in force, less than 50 Professional Construction Health and Safety Agents have been registered, and some are already working outside SA.
“The value of projects requiring permits have been officially lowered to R40-million from 7 February 2017, which means the demand for registered agents could rise three-fold.
“Tenders are now structured just to get the job done without these permits, since “works” is not defined in the Construction Regulations. A R500-million development is artificially broken up into fractions of R39.5-million,” said Maritz.
[Sheqafrica.com invites comments on health, safety and construction safety registration, in the Comment window below this report.]
Legal review to accelerate black empowerment
Ms Mandisa Fatyela-Linde, acting Deputy Director-General of Policy at Public Works, last year told the Public Works committee that laws governing the construction professions councils (Architects, Landscape Architect, Engineers, Property Valuers, Quantity Surveyors, Construction Managers including Construction health and safety officers), were under review.
“There is a need for a closer monitoring of fees charged by councils for membership of registered professionals and candidates, to ensure that they remain affordable,” she said.
“The minister should be consulted prior to publishing these fees. The domination of the councils in the CBE board, renders the CBE ineffective.”
The CBE itself was under threat of closure for not furthering transformation [see a report of two years ago, on Sheqafrica.com].
Now the CBE and the six councils, including the SACPCMP, “have begun establishing a Transformation Steering Committee… to drive the Transformation Agenda in a top-down approach”. This black empowerment committee first met on 27 September 2016.
Transformation initiatives include interns, as well as “supporting and mentoring of students” in student chapters, including those of the SACPCMP.
DPW said the CBE “had experienced governance challenges over several years”, leading to training of council members to prevent “strains between the boards and senior administrative staff”. DPW is still reviewing the CBE Act.
SACPCMP council and board issues
Under chairperson B Martins (ANC), the construction-related authorities and registrars said they were implementing a policy on board appointments, vetting, induction, and performance reviews of the entities, including the SACPCMP. (See an earlier report on the DPW’s SACPCMP council, on Sheqafrica.com)
The relevant Acts do not require the various councils’ strategic plans to be approved by the minister, and tabled in Parliament.
In 2017, the six councils will each make presentations to the parliamentary committee.
Universities must deliver construction skills
The CBE has partnerships with several departments to strengthen its technical capacity: Defence; Eastern Cape Roads and Public Works; Water and Sanitation; Transnet; Independent Development Trust (IDT); as well as Universities: Tshwane University of Technology, Mangosuthu University of Technology, Durban University of Technology, and Central University of Technology in Bloemfontein.
Mr M Filtane (UDM) asked why the private sector was not included in the composition of the TSC, as it was mainly focused on government institutions: Treasury; DST; and DHET.
It was unclear to him “how the public would benefit from the mandate of the CBE, as the main focus seemed to be on transformation”, which “seemed to have taken a precedence over development”.
Another member of parliament asked why the Competition Commissioner was “reluctant to give CBE adequate funding”.
Ms Mdlalose noted: “there are many professionals not registered with the councils”. However there are only about 482 cases of non-registered architects or unprofessional conduct, based on public complaints.
The CBE said it was proud of successful conviction of one unregistered person who was undertaking work in architecture. [see several allegations of “many fly by night construction health and safety practitioners”, in earlier reports on the safety registration tussle. Their number tends to be exaggerated by the pro-registration lobby.]
Ms Patience More, Registrar of SACQSP, said transformation should move away from skin colour, to how the councils conducted themselves.
Ms Kohler-Barnard (DA) asked for a separate meeting with the Portfolio Committees on Basic Education; Higher Education and Training; and Labour, to look at the issue of [health and safety skills] not feeding into public entities.
Here are links to some earlier reports on construction safety registration issues: