ECSA’s roadshow in Cape Town held at the Cape Town Lodge Hotel on 30 August 2017 got off to a rocky start. The promise of two CPD points for the roadshow meant that the venue was fully packed; however, it turned out that this was advertised in error and that only ½ CPD point instead of 2 would be awarded.
The CEO of ECSA, Sipho Madonsela, listed 3 reasons for the presentation of the roadshow:
1. To provide an update on annual reviews based on good institutional governance and administration;
2. To update and seek input on the review of the Engineering Professions Act (EPA); and
3. To implement the Strategic Plan and Annual Performance Plan.
ECSA’s strategic projects include:
1. The establishment of satellite contact centres (4 regions – Free State, Western Cape, Eastern Cape, Kwazulu Natal) to provide candidates and registered professionals with more points of contact with ECSA;
2. Accreditation of Academies to assist with the training and development of candidate engineers, technologists and technicians;
3. The development and launch of an online system in line with the New Registration System by the end of 2018;
4. A review of the Voluntary Associations (VA) and Continuing Professional Development (CPD) Frameworks.
The CEO further provided an overview of ECSA business, such as ECSA’s role as Secretariat for the Southern African Federation of Engineering Organisation (SAFEO) – interesting to note that ECSA is the only African country as part of the International Engineering Alliance (IEA). ECSA has taken on the responsibility to assist the rest of Africa to affiliate with the IEA.
He further described the oversight role of the ECSA Council, making mention of the reduction of the number of committees from 44 to 9. Mr Madonsela noted that the reduction in the number of committees does not affect the Peer Review process, as virtual panels would be created to increase the number of reviewers for applications; focus will be placed on effectiveness, efficiencies and accountability.
Some good news – the IEA confirmed and recognised ECSA’s standards and processes for the Washington Accord for an additional six years.
The latter half of the roadshow consisted of a rundown of the EPA Review – i.e. comparison with other countries (such as Botswana, Swaziland, Malawi, Mauritius) and other professions; and one of the big talking points was the issue of Compulsory Registration. Members are encouraged to comment on the potential changes to the EPA and/or complete the post-EPA workshop questionnaire to provide input on the possible amendments to the Act.
A large focus was placed on the EPA review process:
• Currently incoming engineers <<<< outgoing engineers (realised in skill shortage);
• Out of the 44 VA’s, only 25 are recognised and only 13, including SAICE have responded to the call for comment on the EPA);
• Comparative benchmarks have been undertaken by ECSA with Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, England, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and Canada;
• Should engineering work only be undertaken by registered engineers (Pr. Eng’s, Candidate) – compulsory registration is in the spotlight! Currently 62% of practising engineers are unregistered.
o Registered professionals - 38%
o Unregistered – 52%
o New graduates – 10%
o Hindrances to compulsory registration – ECSA capacity, ECSA readiness, resistance from unregistered engineers, resistance from interest groups, competition commission;
• Definitions will be overhauled in the new EPA;
• Reduction in the number of appointed council members, council term of office, delegation of powers is being reviewed;
• Elimination of corruption and fraud.
While feedback from ECSA on their activities and overview of the EPA Review was appreciated, this was overshadowed by the court case between ECSA and the Voluntary Associations, and the poorly managed registration process; as was evident from the audience’s grilling of the President, Cyril Gamede, and CEO, Sipho Madonsela.
There are differing accounts of the ongoing dispute between ECSA and the VA’s (led by the SAICE). For example, both claim that the other party would not attend meetings, see Youtube 1 and Youtube 2.
What exactly is the court case about? According to Mr. Madonsela, the process that should be followed when appointing a new council is that the outgoing council elects a recommendations committee, whose job is to take applications from those that are interested in serving on the council. A selection of 50 nominees is made (30 members from the engineering profession, 10 from the public and 10 from government), which is then appointed by the Minister of Public Works. According to the VA’s, the Minister of Public Works does not have the power to change the names on the list of nominees; whereas ECSA’s argument is that the ‘committee selects and the Minister appoints’.
For young professionals, the foremost concern is the impact that this court case has on the registration process. Many candidates’ applications have been delayed, some up to 14 months (which is unacceptable), and several candidates in the Western Cape have had to fly to Port Elizabeth or skype with reviewers in Johannesburg for their professional review. Why are no reviews, specifically for civil engineering candidates, being conducted in the Western Cape? Mr Madonsela acknowledged the challenge encountered when a mass resignation of the reviewers occurred in response to the Council’s embracement of the new model of processing applications for registration. He attributed this to the ‘tense relationship’ that ECSA has with SAICE. He further stated that the previous way of doing business with reviews being undertaken by external parties (VA’s) was unworkable, and ECSA felt a lack of control over the process. But what is being done to resolve the issue of the lack of reviewers? Answers provided by the ECSA CEO and President were evasive and left many candidates still wondering when and how these issues would be resolved, and whether they could see themselves being registered within a reasonable period. ECSA have committed to a 3 month registration turnaround time, but time will tell.
Some unanswered questions: How is this bigger and improved ECSA being funded? New reviewers are paid R200 per review – will this produce a quality service given that a review should take about 6 hours? What is being done to get reviewers approved in the Western Cape? And how many reviewers are there currently versus the number previously?
The leadership of ECSA and the VA’s need to resolve their differences sooner rather than later, to minimise the negative impact that this dispute has had on the engineering profession and the morale of candidates.