According to the Association of South African Quantity Surveyors (ASAQS), responsibility for public infrastructure spend should rest with various professions, not only engineers. An estimated R875.70 billion has been committed to a number of ambitious government infrastructure projects until 2019/2020.
This spend is spread across the education (R50.1 billion), energy (R234.5 billion), health(R35.6 billion), human settlements (R102.5 billion), transport and logistics (R327.5 billion) and water and sanitation (R125.3 billion). The ASAQS has previously called for all government projects worth R10 million or more to have a quantity surveyor made responsible for the overall project the final accounts, stating that a quantity surveyor has the professional know-how and commitment to scope the project costs and quantities properly, and then ensure that it remains within scope.
“Infrastructure spend in education, health and human settlements is primarily contracted through the Department of Public Works and the costs are traditionally managed by quantity surveyors. By contrast, projects in the other sectors are largely under the cost control of engineers. These projects account for 83% of the projected spend in this budget,” says Herman Berry, a member of the Building and Property Economics Committee of the Association of South African Quantity Surveyors (ASAQS) and Executive: Program, Cost, Consultancy (Africa) at AECOM.
“It is perhaps worth mentioning that the energy and transport sectors, where quantity surveyors have no formal control over project costing and accounting, have seen some of the most spectacular cost overruns in recent years. Engineers are judged by the quality and aesthetics of their designs and thus, quite rightly, those are their main priorities. Cost is, however, a primary consideration for the quantity surveyor, who produces a Bill of Quantities from the engineer’s design. The Bill of Quantities remains the baseline for the project and all payments, and the foundation for the final account, which the quantity surveyor must draw up and be able to justify.”
He adds that the projects outlined by government are ambitious, and it is “highly desirable” they are achieved and that the country gets what it paid for. “The best way to ensure that is to get quantity surveyors involved—we are trained to ensure that a client’s money is spent as originally planned, and that any deviations are properly documented and authorised before payments are made. We believe government should bear this in mind when it frames the terms of its tenders.”
Image credit: http://www.asaqs.co.za/page/management_2014