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South Africa: Public Works to boost technical skills base


7th Space

Compiled by the Government Communication and Information System
Date: 21 May 2012
Title: Public Works to boost technical skills base
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Pretoria – The Department of Public Works is set to invest more funds in developing in-house technical capacity, which in the long run will help it to save money that is currently paid to consultants.

This emerged after Minister Thulasi Nxesi met with Public Works MECs in Johannesburg over the weekend to develop strategies to enhance service delivery.

Among the issues discussed was the need to address the lack of professional and technical skills, given the fact that Public Works is a highly technical department.

This, according to the department, means recruiting from the private sector, as well as inserting clauses into construction contracts to require contractors to train young engineers and artisans. The department will determine the minimum basket of skills required nationally and provincially.

The discussions also centred on developing and capacitating emerging black construction contractors, whilst strengthening sanctions – including blacklisting – against non-performing contractors to enhance service delivery.

Also taking part in the meeting was the Construction Industry Development Board (CIBD) – a public entity which reports to the Minister of Public Works. CIBD is concurrently reviewing the regulatory framework to ensure it enhances, rather than inhibits, contractor development.

The meeting also explored the use of alternative construction methods (ACMs) to tackle the issue of mud schools. Pilot schemes have been completed in the Eastern Cape and North West provinces.

These methods produce buildings that in most instances are better than conventional buildings, in that they are more sustainable, cheaper and quicker to erect.

Nxesi also explained the implications of the recently announced national infrastructure roll out plans.

“The effective roll out of the Strategic Integrated Projects (SIPs) … the revitalisation of health facilities and the national school building programme, require that Public Works, nationally and provincially, together with client departments, local authorities and implementing bodies work closely together to ensure effective delivery.

“This means maximum coordination and changing the way we work to reduce delays and cut through the bureaucracy. The roll out of health and education infrastructure will also stimulate further economic activity in communities and job creation,” said Nxesi.

Professor Shadrack Gutto, constitutional law expert and public policy commentator, was invited to present a legal opinion and research findings on the application of cooperative governance and concurrent mandates, concepts which are central to improving coordination between the spheres of government.

He concluded that whilst minor legislative or regulatory changes might be necessary, much could be done administratively to strengthen coordination between the spheres, including developing a memorandum of understanding to clarify roles and responsibilities.

A resolution was taken to, among other things, request Professor Gutto to undertake further research, whilst joint structures are established to identify the areas that need to be covered in a memorandum of understanding and to encourage greater cooperation and interaction between provinces to share experiences and best practices.

As examples, the MEC of the Eastern Cape – where ACMs have been used to replace mud schools – invited other provinces to visit these schools, whilst the Western and Northern Cape provinces discussed cooperation to address skills deficits.

The national department will also coordinate with provincial departments to further enhance reliability of the Immovable Assets Register of state assets.

Reported by: South African Government News Service

Absa wants to reverse social security deal


Itweb

By Nicola Mawson, ITWeb deputy news editor

March 16, 2012

AllPay, a subsidiary of big four bank Absa, is set to square off with the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) and a competitor next month, over a R10 billion contract it alleges was awarded unlawfully.

AllPay argues SASSA’s five-year deal with Net1 UEPS Technologies unit Cash Paymaster Services (CPS), awarded in January to cover SA‘s nine provinces, does not comply with the necessary regulations and laws.

AllPay claims, in an affidavit filed with the court this month, that the “process followed by SASSA in awarding the tender to CPS is very deeply flawed”. AllPay’s application to have the award set aside is set to be heard on 11 April.

Net1 previously had a contract to distribute grants in five of SA’s nine provinces. AllPay had been handling payments in the Free State, Western Cape, Gauteng and Eastern Cape, for a decade.

Payment disruptions

AllPay argues the award to CPS does not comply with the Constitution, National Treasury regulations or the Public Finance Management Act and is “unlawful”. It says the 10 million beneficiaries will be prejudiced if SASSA goes ahead with the CPS deal, while the matter is pending before the court.

Earlier this month, Democratic Alliance shadow deputy minister of social development Emmah More claimed the change in service providers disrupted grant payments, despite government assurances to the contrary. She said hundreds of recipients did not receive payouts.

AllPay alleges that CPS’s bid did not comply with SASSA’s requirements and that AllPay’s score was inexplicably lowered. “SASSA has acted in a manner which is designed to secure a particular outcome which favours CPS.”

Millions lost

The document, penned by Charmaine Webb, AllPay Consolidated’s GM of sales and service delivery, supplements a February affidavit.

Webb alleges in the February filing that AllPay will “suffer severe prejudice and irreparable harm if interim relief is not granted on an urgent basis”. She says AllPay “will need to dismantle a massive infrastructure if interim relief is not granted”.

However, if the company is successful in its bid, AllPay will need to go through the process of setting up infrastructure again, says Webb. She adds that the company’s technology, logistics and security partners stand to lose about R7 million in income a month.

If AllPay does not get the relief it seeks, 553 temporary and permanent staff will need to be retrenched, which will cost Absa R26 million, writes Webb. In addition, Absa stands to lose anywhere between 1 million and 1.75 million accounts.

No disruption

Net1 VP of investor relations Dhruv Chopra says “there have been several further affidavits that have been filed since to respond to AllPay’s allegations in a comprehensive manner”.

Chopra says, while the matter is pending, CPS continues to implement the tender based on the contract terms it has with SASSA. “We strongly believe we won the contract purely on merit and that a proper procurement process was followed.”

At the time of the award, chairman and CEO Serge Belamant said: “We are overjoyed by the SASSA tender award and very proud of the confidence that SASSA has placed in our company and technology.”

Department of Social Development spokesperson Lumka Oliphant says it is “not in a position to comment on allegations that have not been tested in court”.

Oliphant says “in the meantime, we want to assure our grant recipients that the service will not be disrupted. They will get what is due to them every month.”

R2bn E Cape wind project passes key enviro, community milestones


Photovoltaic system
Image via Wikipedia

Engineering News

22nd July 2011

Renewable energy developer Red Cap has received environmental approvals for three contiguous wind farm sites in the Eastern Cape and has also concluded an agreement with the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) to facilitate material community ownership in its proposed projects.

CEO Mark Tanton tells Engineering News Online that it is now keen for the long-awaited procurement process to begin “in whatever shape, or form”. But it also wants to be given a reasonable timeframe in which to refashion its bid to fit with the new procurement framework.

He also believes that it would not be “unreasonable” for potential developers to expect some form of consultation from the Department of Energy and the National Treasury, which will together run a procurement process that will include both price and non-price selection criteria.

In a joint open letter to policymakers, the South African Wind Energy Association, the South African Photovoltaic Association and the Southern Africa Solar Thermal and Electricity Association said new consultations were necessary to ensure the revised procurement process is “workable”.

Tanton says such consultation need not take the form of a review, which would delay the process. Instead, government could simply outline the new principles and extend the response period for the request for proposals to between 90 and 120 days to allow developers time to recalibrate their bids to the new rulesRead more.

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