In a media briefing on Tuesday, Saice stated that the court action arose from alleged irregularities in the appointment of ECSA’s current council, where changes were made – without the legally required consultation – to the outgoing council’s approved list of proposed members for the new council that it submitted to the Minister.
The Engineering Profession Act, No 46 of 2000 (EPA) requires the Public Works Minister to consult with the outgoing council if there are insufficient nominations.
“There were 46 names and four vacancies in the list approved by the council last March,” Pillay said on Tuesday.
He explained that the court papers allege that the final list of council members to be considered by the Minister in September comprised 49 individuals with one vacancy – meaning six people on the ECSA approved list were removed without consultation.
“We started a consultation process with ECSA, the Council for the Built Environment and the Department of Public Works (DPW) in August last year and still have not been able to come to an amicable solution, which is why we are forced to go the legal route,” Pillay stated.
He added that ECSA’s role was vital to the quality of engineering infrastructure services, as it registers engineeringpractitioners and regulates their practice, as well as accredits education and training programmes in various fields of engineering – ensuring high standards and global recognition.
“By undermining the quality of oversight of engineeringpractitioners in South Africa, the entire pipeline of engineering infrastructure services, manufacturing and production will be at risk,” he stressed, adding that this could potentially result in the health and safety of the public being placed in jeopardy.”
Fellow voluntary association Consulting Engineers South Africa CEO Chris Campbell added during the media briefing on Tuesday that allegations of compromised good governance, the lack of consultation with affected industries, and the questionable integrity of the appointments under the guise of transformation would erode the profession and impact on industry both locally and internationally.
“Our citizens deserve to experience less flooding, and fewer bridge or roof collapses, not more,” he said.
Campbell added that South African consultants work extensively globally and specifically in neighbouring States.
International accreditation through the Sydney, Dublin and Washington Accords is dependent on a substantial peer review system for professional registration with ECSA.
“[ECSA] allegedly [plans to] dissolve the extensive peer review system and [will] consequently compromise the recognition of professionally registered engineeringpractitioners internationally – as it is a prerequisite for being a signatory to these accords,” he said.
Industry players who have joined the court action say the lack of integrity in the new ECSA council appointment process has opened the door for individuals who are unknown to the industry, and who now have undue influence over the profession.
“Senior industry professionals caution that ECSA is at risk of diluting the peer review mechanism . . . [which] is [also] a prerequisite for South Africa retaining its recognition by the International Engineering Alliance,” Campbell reiterated.
He added that, of particular concern in this regard, is the new council’s aim to disband many of ECSA’s registration-related committees – undermining quality assurance and rigour in the professional registration process.
ECSA, on Tuesday issued a statement, saying it was undeterred by the allegations made by Saice.
It stated that the council nomination procedure was done in accordance with the requirements of Section 4 of the EPA.
“As a statutory council that regulates and registers engineering practitioners, ECSA’s mandate is subdued to the DPW, which upholds the legislative authority for the built environment in its entirety. ECSA is the second respondent in this matter,” the industry body said in a statement.
ECSA said it would not comment further until the court ruled on the matter.