The buck stops with the QS

by Tania Wannenburg
The buck stops with the QS ASAQS

Quantity surveyors could help stamp out corruption and inflated building costs.

Reputable quantity surveyors (QSs) can help stamp out corruption and inflated construction costs in the building industry, with the biggest success if they are employed right at the outset of projects in order to control costs.

This is according to Larry Feinberg, executive director of the Association of South African Quantity Surveyors (ASAQS), who points out that the government of Nigeria – which has one of the highest building costs in the world – has formally asked the Quantity Surveyors’ Registration Board of Nigeria (QSRBN) to cooperate with key national institutions and anti-corruption agencies to wipe out corruption in that country.

“Nigeria realises that the expertise of construction economists, particularly quantity surveyors, holds 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,” Feinberg states.

According to the Nigerian minister of lands, housing and urban development, Akon Eyakeni, these inflationary perceived risks could include design, funding, high interest rates, security and foreign exchange fluctuations.

Warning against excluding QSs
“Too often the inclusion of a QS in a project’s professional team is seen as a dispensable, additional cost. However, a competent QS will provide the certainty and control a project needs, while also helping to reduce costs,” say Feinberg.

“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. This is when the skills of a QS 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,” he added.

ASAQS has already issued a warning that the tendency to omit cost-controlling quantity surveyors from public sector projects could lead to spiralling construction costs and would 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. But it is imperative that the services of credible and responsible quantity surveyors should 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.”

The Association further urges the South African government to note the Nigerian QSRBN call on its government to establish project cost auditing and monitoring departments in all appropriate state departments, staffed by registered quantity surveyors as construction cost management experts  to stamp out corruption and rampant building costs.

Feinberg added that it is essential to employ only the services of reputable and registered quantity surveyors, as this would ensure that a professional regulatory body monitors the ethics and conduct of its members to guard against collusion to inflate the costs of construction projects.

“ASAQS regularly receives reports of unqualified quantity surveyors operating in various parts of South Africa. Entrusting the cost-factoring and expenditure control on multi-million rand projects to such bogus professionals would merely exacerbate the situation and create more opportunities for corruption,” he warns.  

Tel: 011 315 4140
Website: www.asaqs.co.za

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