The Engineering Council of South Africa (ECSA) today commenced its nationwide consultative process on the revisions to its governance instruments; namely the recognition of Voluntary Associations (VAs) framework; the Continuing Professional Development (CPD) policy; and commitment and undertaking guidelines. The commitment and undertakings will also be accompanied by accords with employer bodies. The revision of these instruments points to ECSA’s ongoing activities that are aimed at increasing efficiencies for the benefit of all engineers, and the South African public.
In setting the context for the need for this public consultative process, ECSA Chief Executive Office, Sipho Madonsela highlighted the numerous comments that were made by the engineering profession during the last national roadshow in early 2015. The concerns of the profession highlighted during this process, motivated the revision of the three frameworks under review. Parallel to these concerns, ECSA had received independent requests from government (though the CBE) and from the VAs, to consult on the compilation of the revision of these documents. In order to make the process efficient, ECSA has therefore drafted one revision which all stakeholders can align with; to which end ECSA has made the draft available to all stakeholders for review and commentary.
ECSA President Cyril Gamede spoke of the need to demystify the perception that ECSA is the ‘gate-keeper’ of the profession, and the level of transparency that ECSA is expected to uphold should also be required of the Voluntary Associations (VAs). Gamede made a strongly worded request to the VAs, for them to desist from being disruptive to the functioning of ECSA, stressing the need for collaboration and clear service level agreements as this affects the primary constituents of both ECSA and the VAs. “We cannot have is a situation where there are no expectations of the VAs or of ECSA, to the detriment of the registered engineering practitioners and candidate engineers. We cannot have that. We have failed if we can’t deliver the fundamental service to the engineering practitioners, and uplift the profile of the profession” said Gamede.
Madonsela stressed that the need for the revision of these frameworks is to align the measure of responsibility of all involved engineering practitioners with the accountability that is required of every Professional Engineer, and which all engineers understand. “Our regulatory framework cannot be seen to be stagnant, especially when the needs of our stakeholders are changing at a dynamic pace. This is why we have chosen to take such a bold step in response to the needs of the profession – in order to strike a balance between ECSA’s role as the custodian and regulator of the profession, and the engineering profession at large.”
Madonsela highlighted that ECSA’s broader mandate is carried out by three output arms. Firstly, an administrative arm – which is the day-to-day operation of ECSA, through policy standards and procedures development; registration, accreditation and quality assurance; professional conduct management through the legal support team; and through the CPD programme. Secondly, ECSA functions through the voluntary support of engineering professionals who sit on different ECSA Committees. And thirdly, through the VAs who are delegated functions by the ECSA Council. ECSA’s council comprises 50 individuals who are appointed by government.
“Where inefficiencies had been detected in the administrative output arm of which I am CEO, staff found to be working beneath ECSA’s standards have been disciplined, with some losing their jobs,” Madonsela said. “ECSA, in these instances, has taken accountability for the service we offer to our constituents, being the engineering professionals,” Madonsela added. He went on to say that it should therefore stand to reason that any inefficiencies in the operation of the ECSA committees and VA’s should also be approached in a similar manner, to ensure that standardized operations are maintained across all three output arms. “I cannot stress enough, the need for the introduction of accountability that matches responsibility,” he said. “In the past, ECSA has absorbed all accountability for the regulation of the profession, even where VAs and committees were seen to be clearly functioning under the standards that they would expect ECSA to uphold. We must match the responsibility of the administrative, committees and VA operation outputs, with appropriate accountability,” he added. “It would be unfair that some parties go undisciplined, even when there is evidence of inefficiencies across all arms,” he added.
Madonsela explained that ECSA as a regulatory body has a ‘hard’ mandate, as well as a ‘soft’ mandate. The ‘hard’ mandate would be the legislative operations of ECSA, which are outlined in The Engineering Profession Act No 46 of 2000 (EPA). “The ‘soft’ mandate is one that is not written into the EPA, however, responsible corporate governance would require ECSA’s adherence to issues such as a clear transformation agenda in the profession; the aligning of ECSA’s mandate with governments visions to mention a few. Our revision of the frameworks is also influenced by this soft mandate,” Madonsela explained.
In the in-depth review of the revised frameworks, Advocate Rebaone Gaoraelwe emphasized that the process of public consultation seeks to get input from all those who are affected by the revisions as this allows for amendments to be made where required in an equitable manner. “We are not here to defend our recommendations, but rather, to explain them and seek your input, as we work to become a modern and efficient regulator of the profession,” said Adv. Gaoraelwe.
The consultative process will visit all nine provinces in South Africa, with three sessions scheduled for Gauteng, which has the largest concentration of engineers and VA’s in the country. The schedule will run from 4 July, and be concluded in Johannesburg on 19 August 2016.