MEC on construction woes: Give investors value, not 'Stone Age' delivery methods


Gauteng MEC for Infrastructure Development Jacob Mamabolo has questioned why government’s spend on infrastructure is failing to lift confidence in the embattled construction sector, citing concerns about effective progress monitoring and accountability.

"The problem is efficiency. Investors find ‘black boxes’ where they can’t see what’s going on.

"They find Stone Age methods of delivery, lack of transparency … they can’t see where every rand is going," Mamabolo said.

The FNB/Bureau of Economic Research Civil Confidence Index has been below 20 for more than a year, and more than 80% of index respondents in the third quarter of 2018 said they are dissatisfied by the prevailing business conditions.

Government plans to revive the sector and the economy though President Cyril Ramaphosa’s stimulus package, which includes plans to spend R400bn in infrastructure over the next three years, and draw in further private sector investment from pension funds and financial institutions.

Mamabolo believes the drone system that Gauteng has been using since May to monitor projects is the game changer in the infrastructure industry, as the technology is used to assess whether projects are on time, within budget and built to the necessary quality levels.

The Gauteng Department of Infrastructure Development demonstrated to journalists on Monday the 3D modelling of construction sites using drone footage, in partnership with the University of Johannesburg.

Officials lied to

Mamabolo complains that the department was previously unable to monitor contractors on-site efficiently and officials were often lied to and travelled long distances to track projects.

Gauteng has a pipeline of 340 projects over the next three years, to the value of R4.5bn, including hospitals, schools and government buildings.

Mamabolo said that improved monitoring and accuracy for reporting by drones would make Gauteng an increasingly attractive destination for investment in the construction sector.

"We can give them the best value for money, we can account for every rand and cent, we can account for the drawings and the progress made."

Internationally, drones are on the rise in the construction sector, and a report by investment bank Goldman Sachs in March 2016 predicted that the largest use for commercial drones in the immediate future would be in construction.

The bank said that drones in all industries, including construction and agriculture, can offer improved accuracy, frequency and turnaround time.

Mamabolo said that Gauteng was willing to share its expertise at national level, as well as with other provinces and municipal spheres of government, adding that people are likely to first want to see the technology work and the reputation for cost efficiencies and time saving has to be earned.

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