Managers often start the day in boardrooms but this time the entire Public Works’ management had to spread across the province. Why? On Tuesday 17 October 2017, Public Works’ leadership (SMS and MMS levels) deployed into four formidable teams as they visited all regions (eThekwini, Midlands, North Coast and Southern region). Public Works’ leadership has initiated this typical campaign, which is an organised, purposeful effort to creating change and has been guided by a thoughtful planning.
Above (left): Mr Thobuyise Mchunu, the Regional Director for Southern Region led the Infrastructure Team with Barry Steenhuisen (right), the Project Manager: eThekwini Region
eThekwini Regional team of 23 members (who were selected according to their expertise), led by their Champion, Jeremy Redfearn, convened at the Region’s Boardroom, Mayville in Durban at 8:30 sharp with a view to map out the day’s programme. Operation Shonaphansi aims to explore and understand practical, economically viable, scalable and sustainable construction or project management models. The participants will have a first-hand experience on the successes and challenges of the technology, business model, end application, operations and maintenance on the ground issues of a of construction setup. Operation ‘Shonaphansi’ is an isiZulu phrase meaning ‘Go Down’ or ‘sink’. However, the interpretation towards the term in the context of a work operation linked to service delivery is ‘to go back to the basics’.
The department’s mandate as an implementing agent of choice in infrastructure, construction and immovable asset management is obliged to conduct site visits, aimed at assessing compliance and implementation of quality management. Sites visited on the day included Stanger Hospital Project in KwaDukuza (Infrastructure); Inanda Special School (EPWP); Mayville Maintenance Programme) IZ Programme, and Multiple Tenants Commercial City Building in Central Durban (Immovable Asset Management). While visits were undertaken, additional issues and concerns become apparent during the on-going working sessions with contractors and other service providers. It must therefore be understood in a positive light that visiting a real time construction project often offers one to develop a greater understanding of how theory is put into practice. A review of other projects in the vicinity may also be needed to assist analysing the overall impact during the site visits.
Critical issues that were identified were on expenditure trends and final accounts frequencies; management of contractor on-site meetings; filing systems that were found to be in good standing; dysfunctional state of on-site project management and noncompliance to contractual obligations by EPWP programme beneficiaries.
Stanger Hospital site visit: (ltr) Messrs Nic De Wet, Thobuyise Mchunu, Barry Steenhuisen and Ms Hanka Gorny
A short briefing session was conducted where reports were delivered by each sector. Mr Redfearn reiterated that Operation Shonaphansi should not be seen as a way to criticize the region or office but serves an important part of productivity and service delivery outcome. They assist to assessing the prospects of a construction company. An office desktop research cannot replace the experience of visiting an operation in person. Project clients and other investors are able to assess in much more detail the construction, its processing and quality of operational management teams, as well as be able to exchange views with some of their peers on the site visit itself. Above all, site visits can show how much emphasis the business has on safety, labour relations and, crucially, to taste the flavour of the corporate culture.
Though site visits are labour and time intensive, and in some cases more expensive the more remote the site is. However, this is compensated for by attendees attaining a far better and deeper understanding not only of the construction or project in question but also the prospects for the department as a whole. If something changes from one day to the next, it changes suddenly. Operation Shonaphansi begins to show a light, as it paves ways of creating change for eThekwini Region.