Engineering groups in court battle over new council
Fourteen bodies claim public works minister’s appointment of ‘illegal’ body is a safety risk to public
The South African Institution of Civil Engineering (SAICE) and 13 other institutions are taking legal action against Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi and the Engineering Council of SA (Ecsa) over the "unlawful" appointment of a new council.
The main role of Ecsa, a statutory body established in terms of the Engineering Profession Act of 2000, is the regulation of the engineering profession in terms of the act.
On Monday, SAICE CEO Manglin Pillay said Nxesi and Ecsa did not follow due process and chose not to appoint the list approved by the former Ecsa council, which was a requirement of the Engineering Profession Act. This rendered the new council unlawful.
SAICE and other applicants it is representing said it would hold a media briefing on Tuesday to discuss how the minister and Ecsa had damaged the integrity of the engineering profession.
The groups represented by SAICE include the Aeronautical Society of SA, the Concrete Society of SA, the Institution of Certified Mechanical and Electrical Engineers and Consulting Engineers SA.
They said international accreditation of local qualifications for engineers may be jeopardised, resulting in risks to the health and safety of the public and inferior infrastructure projects.
Ecsa’s core functions are the accreditation of engineering programmes, registration of people as professionals in specified categories and the regulation of the practice of those registered people.
It is the only body in SA that is authorised to register engineering professionals and bestow engineering titles such as Pr Eng, Pr Tech Eng, Pr Techni Eng, Pr Cert Eng on people who have met the requisite professional registration criteria.
Ecsa’s executive for strategic services, Christopher Tsatsawane, said the council had received court papers on Friday.
"The South African engineering landscape has of late been dominated by news of a litigation process that a select few of Ecsa’s recognised voluntary associations have spearheaded for the ruling of the high court. These developments have [a]risen following the recent appointment of Ecsa’s fifth-term council. Ecsa received court papers from SAICE on Friday, March 3 2017."
The fifth-term council was inaugurated in September last year.
"As a statutory council that regulates and registers engineering practitioners, Ecsa’s mandate is subdued to the Department of Public Works which upholds the legislative authority for the built environment in its entirety. Ecsa is the second respondent in this matter," said Tsatsawane.
Attempts to reach the department were unsuccessful.
Tsatsawane said: " Ecsa reserves the right not to make any further comments until the court rules on this matter. We remain focused and committed to the achievement of our legislative mandate."
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