South Africa’s government tender process to blame for poor building performances.

South Africa’s ineffective tender process could be the major contributor to increasing complaints about contractors and professional service providers (PSPs) employed on “government projects” regarding their ability to deliver good quality buildings on time – and within budget, asserts Bert van den Heever, president of the Association of SA Quantity Surveyors (ASAQS).

He says the inability of a contractor or PSP to perform professionally can have wide repercussions, and filter right through to all members of the building industry involved in a failed project. “Apart from contractors or subcontractors, it also negatively impacts on the client’s perception of his/her consulting team’s performance when the final redress for bad performance, the termination of the contract, is the inevitable result.”

“But is the contractor or PSP solely to blame? Can s/he be held accountable if the selection process is flawed? In South Africa, the Preferential Procurement Policy Framework Act (PPPFA) allows the measurement of only two criteria in awarding tenders for government projects: price, as the dominant dimension, and then preference.”

Bert is of the opinion that many of the problems that arise during the construction phase could be avoided if tenders were awarded using weighted criteria which, along with price and preference, also factored in relevant experience, past performance, technical skills, management skills and resources and the methodology to be used. Here methodology refers to the procedures or innovative methods the tenderer proposes to use to achieve the specified end results.

Prof Geo Quinot of the Department of Public Law at Stellenbosch University, in his article entitled ‘The Role of Quality in the Adjudication of Public Tenders’ published in the Potchefstroom Electronic Law Journal, explored the quandary that the Quantity Surveying industry finds itself in and concluded that ” the precise role of quality, expressed as functionality, in public procurement adjudication in South African public procurement regulation, remains unclear”.

“And this, I argue, is one of the root causes of the procurement problems Quantity Surveyors face in this country,” Bert adds. “I believe the time has come for the Association of SA Quantity Surveyors, in collaboration with other willing role players in the building industry, to call for the public tender adjudication process to be improved to place more emphasis on quality and proof of relevant experience and competence, than mainly on price and preference as matters now stand.”