Investigating how Quantity Surveyors could potentially eliminate corruption in the construction industry.

The South African government should follow Nigeria’s example by employing reputable quantity surveyors to stamp out corruption and inflated construction costs in the building industry, the Association of South African Quantity Surveyors (ASAQS), has urged.

Larry Feinberg, Executive Director of ASAQS, says the government of Nigeria – which has one of the highest building costs in the world – has formally asked quantity surveyors in the country to join the campaign to stamp out corruption in the local construction industry.

“The Nigerian government believes that quantity surveyors have a major role to play in achieving value-for-money and cost-efficiency in the implementation of projects both in the public and private sectors of the national economy,” he says.” “It is time the South African government took note of this contention. Nigeria realises that the expertise of construction economists – particularly quantity surveyors – hold the key to unravelling the mystery behind high project costs, often ostensibly caused by ‘perceived risks’ that are converted into monetary values added to the overall project costs.”

He said the Nigerian Minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development, Mrs Akon Eyakeni, recently stated that these inflationary “perceived risks” could include design, funding, high interest rates, security, and foreign exchange fluctuations. She stated that these risks had a huge impact on the cost of projects in Nigeria and suggested that reputable quantity surveyors should design templates for determining cost bands and ranges for various types of projects to “instil sanity” in the planning and preparation of capital budgets.

Larry says ASAQS had already issued a warning that the tendency to omit cost-controlling quantity surveyors from public sector projects could lead to spiralling construction costs that could encourage corruption. “We are, therefore, gratified to note that the South African Ministry of Finance has included quantity surveyors in the team appointed to investigate costs relating to the recent Constitutional Court finding on the Nkandla project,” he continues. “But it is imperative that the services of credible and responsible quantity surveyors be employed right at the outset of any major public sector project so that costs are controlled, and potential corruption avoided, right from the outset of any project.”

ASAQS believes that sustainable development cannot be achieved when the activities of certain economic agents are mired in corruption and unethical practices. “As long as the costs of construction projects in South Africa are not professionally verified and controlled, each one will pose a threat to the economic welfare of our country,” Larry says. “South Africa should formally adopt a value-for-money principle to fight corruption in the construction sector.”

He goes on to say that too often the inclusion of a quantity surveyor in a project’s professional team is seen as a dispensable, additional cost. However, a competent quantity surveyor – such as the members of ASAQS – will provide the certainty and control a project needs, while also helping to reduce costs.

“Major building projects tend to be complex undertakings right from the outset, and can get even more complicated when design changes are introduced without the client and professional team realising the cost factors involved,” Larry concludes. “This is when the skills of a quantity surveyor are particularly essential. He or she will handle any unforeseen procurements and project management revisions so architects and the rest of the professional team can concentrate on their own tasks.”