Urgent steps taken by CBE to strengthen regulatory function over the professional built environment councils; with Deputy Minister

Public Works and Infrastructure

28 September 2022
Chairperson: Ms N Ntobongwana (ANC)
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Meeting Summary


The Committee was briefed by the Council for the Built Environment (CBE) on its policies and strategies to enhance transformation in the various professions involved in the building industry. Its focus was on skills and enterprise development, creating opportunities for the youth, and promoting women's empowerment. In the process, it was employing its mandate of advising, regulating and coordinating the work of the six built environment councils. Its initiatives were felt across the country, including in remote areas.

Current challenges included the application and implementation of policies across all six professional councils regulated by the CBE. Whenever it was involved in the accreditation of educational institutions, it played more of a passive role, and more participation was required. Transformation remained a key challenge, as there was a high failure rate among candidates who took on assessments to become professionals in the built environment, mainly because of their limited exposure in this area.

Members were concerned about the current state of transformation, with more than 60% cent of registered professionals coming from the white demographic sector. They complained about the lack of feedback on progress made in previous years and with the current initiatives, especially those related to race and gender demographics.

The Deputy Minister reminded Members that whether or not they liked this focus on demographics within the built environment, it was a reality. When the Constitution said they had to heal the divisions of the past, it meant active steps and decisions made that would influence the healing had to be taken. 

Meeting report

Ms Noxolo Kiviet, Deputy Minister of Public Works and Infrastructure, said the role of oversight, as played by this Portfolio Committee, was essential as it granted the Department an opportunity to reflect on its strengths and weaknesses. The Council for the Built Environment (CBE) was an entity that fulfilled a regulatory function by coordinating the six councils in the built environment, and it was always appreciative of the Committees' oversight function.

Steps taken by CBE to strengthen its regulatory function

Dr Sitsabo Dlamini, Chairperson, CBE, said the Council's transformation strategy was in alignment with the government goals of job creation. The Council's transformation initiative was setting a focus on skills development with an emphasis on enterprise development, creating opportunities for the youth, and women's empowerment. In doing so, it was employing its mandate of advising, regulating and coordinating the work of the six built environment councils. Engagements were taking place to ensure as many people as possible were participating in the work of the entity, particularly people from disadvantaged backgrounds. Work was constantly being done so that the CBE's initiatives were felt across the country, including in remote areas.

Mr Msizi Myeza, Chief Executive Officer, CBE, said the CBE was a Schedule 3A public entity, a juristic body established in terms of section 2 of the Council for the Built Environment Act, 43 of 2000, reporting to the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI).

The Council was an overarching body that coordinated six CBE professions -- architecture, landscape architecture, engineering, property valuation, project and construction management, and quantity surveying. This was done by instilling good conduct within the professions, promoting transformation, and advising the South African government on built environment-related issues.

Strengthening the regulatory function of the CBE over these councils was in terms of the Built Environment Act 43 of 2000, which was to:

Promote and protect the interest of the public in the built environment (section 3 (a)) by acting as an appeal body concerning matters referred in terms of the law regulating the built environment professions, and receiving complaints from the public related to any matter that falls within the built environment;

Promote sound governance of the built environment professions (section 3 (f)) by assessments. The CBE had adopted a revised corporate governance framework aligned with the King IV principles and the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) to improve compliance standards. Annually, it conducts a corporate governance assessment of the six CBE professions to develop improvement programmes to raise their compliance levels.

Ensure uniform application of the norms and guidelines set by the councils for the professions throughout the built environment, and the consistent application of policy by the CBE programs (Section 3 (i) and section 4 (k))


Current challenges and Initiatives to strengthen CBE regulations at the council level included applying and implementing policies across all six councils.

Mr Myeza said that whenever CBE went for the accreditation of educational institutions, it played more of a passive role, and more participation was required. Therefore, a need existed for it to promote coordination between the Council on Higher Education (CHE) and the Council for the professions concerning the accreditation of educational institutions. The CBE had a transformation mandate to advance, including at higher education institutions, and not act just as an accreditation agency. Institutions must be urged to advance transformation, where a criterion could be developed to say until an institution met a certain standard of transformation, it would not receive accreditation.

Further, the racial profile of the registered professionals was skewed, with Coloured professionals accounting for 4%, Indians 9%, Africans 25% percent, and the rest being white professionals. Transformation remained a key challenge in the built environment. 

There was a high failure rate among candidates who took on assessments to become professionals in the built environment. This was largely due to some professionals' limited exposure to areas in the built environment.

It was important to note which councils were receiving complaints, what the nature of the complaints were, and what initiatives were being employed to address these complaints, as some of them were largely around the non-compliance of the councils. As an output, at the end of each financial year, it was important to have a report that could identify and present a clear picture of the councils that were struggling and were non-compliant.

In strengthening the current function of the CBE, legal forums had been established to assist the councils with legal and non-compliance issues that were identified at the forum level before they became larger legal issues.

The CBE had picked up a trend amongst councils that usually expressed some tension regarding policy inconsistencies.

CBE challenges at the agency level included:

-Limited powers to enforce compliance. This was due to enforcement powers not spelt out in the CBE Act.
-Disputes caused by unfavourable appeal decisions, resulted in a lack of cooperation by the Council for the Built Environment Professions (CBEP).
-Lack of capacity within the six CBE programmes to fully comply with the governance framework.
-Practice versus policy - as much as the CBEP may have policies in place, it was challenging to comply with them due to a lack of capacity and resources.
-Separation of powers - due to a lack of resources, the CBEP normally elected its Council members to serve on committees, which brings on conflict and issues not properly addressed. There needed to be a mechanism that addresses these conflicts of interests
-Lack of adequate mechanisms and measures to deal with the unprofessional conduct of Council members.

The CBE would send proposals to the Department regarding some of these challenges, and acknowledged that it would take time.

Proposed initiatives and legislative reform

Having noted the challenges expressed above, the CBE has proposed some initiatives and reforms to address them. Chief among them was carrying out awareness campaigns that shared with people what Councils did and did not do.

Second was the amendment of the CBE legislation. This proposal would be submitted in the 2023 financial year. The amendment seeks to:

To vest the CBE with enforcement powers to enforce compliance with its oversight functions – i.e. compliance notices, orders, and administrative penalties (enforcement mechanisms to promote compliance).

Review the current CBE Act in its entirety, as it was written in such a manner that it could be subject to numerous interpretations.

Statutory review and consolidation of CBE legislation, as it was old legislation.

Legislated directive turnaround times for ministerial approvals of legislative frameworks/delegation of authority to the CBE.


Ms S van Schalkwyk (ANC) expressed deep concern about the current state of affairs in the CBE. Updates had been received, but there was no feedback on progress made thus far from previous years and current initiatives, especially around race and gender demographics, with white domination of over 60%. This had been raised over the past years, yet it seemed there was no movement. There needed to be a rethinking of approaching this issue, as it could not be business as usual, particularly considering the high unemployment rate of previously disadvantaged communities. What were the stumbling blocks? Why were candidates not reaching professional levels? Was there a hesitance among individuals who were meant to be assisting with the qualification of the candidates?

It was concerning that the handling of only six of 80 complaints had been completed. Could the Committee be told how long it took to complete the handling of complaints?

Ms M Hicklin (DA) said that since the last CBE presentation in May, it seemed there had not been much change. She raised the following points:

Was the gender transformation desk at the CBE functional?
Was there a Company Secretary at the CBE currently?
How many councillors were on the CBE board at the moment, and who were they?
When the CBE investigated complaints, were independent entities being used? Impartiality was an issue with agencies. The CBE and all councils needed to be impartial so that when complaints were logged and heard, impartiality was always present.
Could the committee be given a list of all the councils in the CBE?
Did all the councils currently quorate?
On financial commitments being on par, were the payments made to voluntary associations reflected in the financial reports?
Had the CBE investigated the boycotting of registration fees by professionals due to their grievances over architects and draughts people being on the same level as the Council? The CBE had a role in ensuring that professional and registration fees were paid, that issues relating to registration of the levels of the various councils were normalised, and that the registration fees were appropriate. If the stratas and standing of architects were devalued, professionals would not register.
Were the transformation and collaborative committees functional? Was transformation at the heart of the agenda? Were there suitably skilled personnel in those committees who were concerned with transforming the built environment at the heart of their actions?
Who headed up the transformation desk at the CBE?

Ms A Siwisa (EFF) was also concerned that the CBE was unable to kick-start initiatives for women in the built environment. As there were women in the built environment, what was it doing to look out for them?

There were shortcomings of candidates through being exposed to only one aspect of the built environment when writing the professional qualifying examinations. What was CBE doing to address the high failure rate resulting from candidates being exposed to only limited fields of the built environment?

Referring to the unemployment of graduates in the built environment, she asked what the CBE was doing to ensure there was enough exposure and opportunities for employment or business ventures in the built environment.

She also expressed dismay at the lack of movement in transforming gender and racial imbalances. Moreover, the CBE had mentioned nothing about initiatives undertaken for including disabled persons, and this was a grave concern.

Ms S Graham (DA) questioned how the presentation of the CBE was meant to be on the steps taken to transform the regulatory function of the CBE, as very little had been said about the steps being taken.

The dishonesty of councillors was concerning, as these were supposed to be professional bodies. How was it that these very “custodians” of the professionals were not embodying these qualities?

The ongoing concern over transformation was warranted. The CBE needed to ensure that transformation was taking place at the grassroots. The past three years have resulted in no change, yet the CBE has been sharing strategies in this regard. What was the CBE doing about going to schools, identifying young people, and providing opportunities to youth interested in the built environment?

Why was there a need for a council for the built environment? She saw no value in what the CBE was doing, and there had been no notable changes that it was bringing that the councils could not perform. It seemed to be just another layer of employment, whilst no one was getting value for money for what the CBE was doing. The Committee needed to investigate what it was doing above and beyond what the individual councils could not do, and what value add was being brought to the councils and the built environment alike.

Mr W Tring (ACDP) said Mr Myeza was on record stating that the CBE was in consultation with the councils for massifying the mentorship of built environment candidates in all nine provinces, ensuring that professionals were registered and provided with employment opportunities. In terms of that statement, how far were they in massifying the mentorship of the built environment candidates, and was there a definitive number on the massification of the built environment?

It was also stated that the CBE, along with the CBEP, was running critical candidacy programmes in 148 districts. What was the status of these programmes? How successful were they? What type of progress has been made in addressing the lag in the number of engineers concerning the population in South Africa?

He suggested that there should be less fixation on transformation, as he thought there were few who would not support transformation. Yes, it was necessary, but it could not be forced. He stated his belief in the intelligence and capability of black people, and that they could hold their own. Forcing transformation was not the way forward. He said that placing racial and gender quotas on the built environment professionals should be done away with, and the focus placed on the best qualified, irrespective of their demographics. Placing racial and gender quotas usually resulted in the most qualified moving away from South Africa.  

Ms L Mjobo (ANC) said one main reason for the oversight committees of the CBE was to ensure the transformation of the built environment. If the CBE was unable to foster transformation, its executives should advise the Members on how they could assist in achieving the transformation agenda. She added that filling vacancies seemed not to be done properly, as these vacancies should provide citizens with employment opportunities.

In closing, she said that while transformation may not be forced, it is still important.

The Chairperson described the absence of the representatives of the councils as unfortunate.

She said they could not be told not to consider transformation. The transformative agenda could not be ignored for several reasons, including South Africa's history. The built environment councils had black presidents and a majority of white male members in a society with white people as a minority.  Ease of access and participation in the built environment must be prioritised, especially for black people, as it is currently not the case. Transformation must be advanced and seen in the councils.  It was high time for the DPWI, alongside the CBE, to ensure opportunities were opened for young black males and females at institutions of higher learning.  

Further, the complaints raised against councils and the time it took to resolve them must be improved by the CBE, so that the entity was not seen as absolving them.

CBE's response

Mr Myeza said the issue of candidates not moving towards professionalisation stemmed from two factors. Sites where graduates were placed were not an environment that allowed them to advance to professionalisation. In this regard, the CBE had developed a structured mentorship programme piloted in the Eastern Cape, the Free State and the Northern Cape. This had seen improvements, although on a small scale. Secondly, some candidates employed by the government had supervisors who were not registered with the CBE. As a result, they were unable to assist with ensuring the graduates applied and qualified as registered professionals.

On the massification of candidacy programs, the CBE had engaged the Limpopo Director General on ways of massifying the candidacy programme in the province. This had been done in Mpumalanga, where it was suggested that a virtual candidacy programme should be implemented that was uniform across a range of areas to ensure uniformity and preparedness of candidates.

Agreeing with sentiments expressed by Members, Mr Myeza said that the independence of the CBE was paramount. Currently, the appeals committee is run by independent professionals, and their findings are final and binding.

He accepted the point raised by Members regarding the independence of council members, and said the executive would consider this further.

On the administrative front, transformation fell within the scope of the Chief Operations Officer, Ms Nana Mhlongo. Transformation was something they could not ignore, and no efforts must be spared to address it.

Women's involvement was an area where the built environment had admittedly not done enough.

The industry admittedly needed to make a dedicated and targeted intervention to ensure that support was granted to those living with disabilities. This needed to be attended to, as the built environment industry must incorporate disabled people holistically.

Efforts were being made to create opportunities for youth looking to get into the built environment and the business of the industry, although it was not enough. He admitted that there had been no traction in this regard. Initiatives had been introduced to target the built environment professionals, and the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) had been approached as a development partner to address this challenge.

Dr Dlamini referred to progress on transformation, and said the CBE initially had 17% of registered professionals across all councils from the black community. Efforts had since been made to include recognition of prior learning and mentorship programmes amongst councils, which had assisted and there were currently 23% registered black professionals.

Issues of women's empowerment and the graduation of black professionals have presented the CBE with great challenges in advancing this agenda. Most practices with black practitioners found it hard to compete with long-existing firms under the terms of the current procurement requirements. This was a serious hindrance, as practitioners who were unable to secure any work were less likely to be able to employ and create opportunities for women. In this regard, proposals had been made to National Treasury and legislative authorities on the kind of instruments that would provide better opportunities for women's empowerment and the graduation of black professionals.

There were currently 16 active Council members, so they were quorate. If there was a need for names, these could be made available to the committee.

The registration fees issue had been discussed by Council members, particularly those with more than one area of registration. Considering the turnover, it was only fair that registration fees were looked into. This matter was a work in progress.

On whether a need existed for the presence of the CBE, the Council was currently undergoing a 20-year review, as this had been a key matter to be looked into. This was done to consider the relevance of the CBE and what adjustments needed to be made. A report on this review had not yet been produced.

Youth empowerment was key to addressing issues of transformation in institutions of higher learning. From experience, there was a need to address the need for transformation in institutions, as they affected the intake levels that were not representative of the country's demographics. These were fundamental matters that Members should consider taking forward, to ensure there was transformation at institutions of higher learning, and that these matters were not just discussed at committee meetings.

Mr Adam Mthombeni, Deputy Director General: Intergovernmental Relations, DPWI, said the appointment of councillors was currently under way with the Ministry, and due diligence procedures were being employed. In two weeks, the appointments should be finalised.

To strengthen governance, the Department was ensuring quarterly reviews were done. This was to ensure performance was in line with the PFMA. The Department was satisfied with the interface concerning matters of governance.

Deputy Minister's closing remarks

Deputy Minister Kiviet said the composition of the CBE was a legislated process, so the representation of the various councils at the CBE level could not be shied away from. There was a thin line guiding issues of independence and impartiality, and the associated responsibilities. This was a delicate balancing act because the role of the councillors was to represent their professions in the CBE. The Council was also composed of people who were not necessarily in the professional councils and built environment.

Therefore, when the council members dealt with complaints, they dealt with them at the professional council level. By the time a complaint reached the appeal stages, the code of good governance dictated that they could not listen to an appeal they had interacted with at the complaints stage. This was a good governance practice. The CBE should ensure that Councilors who had dealt with a complaint did not do so again at the appeal stage.

On the issue of professionals being paid the same rates for work done -- draughtsman and architects -- that should mean the work was of an equal value.  She stressed the importance of understanding that payment was for the work done, and not for the qualification of the professionals. It was not about the diploma or bachelor’s degree. To illustrate this point, she gave an example of a medical doctor who, for whatever reason, ended up being employed as a clerk. The doctor would be paid the salary of a clerk and not that of a doctor, as the work produced would be that of a clerk and not a doctor.

The conduct of councillors was subject to the code of conduct they sign, which places an obligation for one to work professionally. A breach of the code would subject one to the steps indicated in the code of conduct. Therefore, for issues of misconduct by councillors, the Council must employ the provided steps for breaches of conduct.

The CBE was better placed to coordinate a response on the status of complaints, and the reasons behind them.

She agreed that the problem of transformation could not be solely transformed at the professional level. To speed it up, the CBE had to coordinate all the councils to have programmes that went to the schools. However, the CBE and the DPWI could not wait for those programmes to bear fruit -- they had to take other steps in the short term as they were usually in office for only about three years.

For instance, one of the councils had released a report illustrating the progress made in the profession. The report stated that they currently had 50 406 registered engineers in their register. Amongst those, 33 313 were professional engineers and 16 919 were registered candidates. If one juxtaposed the professionals with graduates, one would say the professionals were double the candidates. Of the 50406, about 31000 were professional males and 3 000 of them were professional females. On the candidacy list, there were 12000 candidate males versus 5000 female candidates. This reflected the rate at which the candidacy changes in female participation improved.

Based on the candidacy registrations this year between April to June, there were 415 registrations, and 150 were females. Further breaking down these statistics, the age group 22-30 had 340 candidates, whilst 30-40 had 176 candidates, depicting an increase in youth participation and activity in joining. Racially, there were 386 African candidates, 34 Asians, 103 whites, 19 Indians, and 21 coloured candidates.

Deputy Minister Kiviet reminded Members that whether or not they like this segregation of demographics within the built environment, it was a reality. When the Constitution stated that they must heal the divisions of the past, it meant active steps must be taken and decisions that would influence the healing. Healing did not only come from ensuring learners registered at schools -- it meant active steps must be taken to change the picture.  She acknowledged that the Department and its agencies may have fallen short in addressing transformation in this Committee presentation. This was largely due to the presentation requiring information on the steps taken to regulate the regulatory function. Programmes were present and were being implemented.

She stressed to the councils that the mandate was not only for professionals in Gauteng -- it was for all South Africans. Therefore, the Council's actions and programmes must reflect the provincial outlook per province, so that the picture of transformation in the country is reflected.

Whilst Members may feel there had been no change concerning transformation, it was happening. Members themselves had put forward a range of proposals reflective of the complexities surrounding transformation. This was a thorny matter that required thorough thought through strategies and processes, to realise the fruit they wanted to see. There could be no equality as guaranteed by the constitution without taking transformative steps. Divisions of the past could be healed only if there were decisions that would aid faster healing. More importantly, the preamble of the South African constitution sets the tone of a country that realises the potential of each person. Therefore race, gender and disability issues were factors that prohibited freeing the potential of every individual. Transformation was a constitutional imperative.

Ms Hicklin stated that the comment on architects and draughts people being charged the same professional fees comes directly from the councils, and not from anyone else. The CBE was forcing draughts people to be placed on the same level as architects. This raised the question of why someone would spend about five years getting a professional degree from a university, only to be placed on the same level as a draughts person. It was unfair.

The Deputy Minister responded that the CBE Chairperson had said this was being attended to.

Committee matters

The Chairperson said that as the previous minutes had not been sent to Members, they could not be dealt with at this meeting, as they needed sufficient time to deliberate before dealing with them.

She reminded Members that later in the afternoon, the Expropriation Bill would be discussed in Parliament. 

The meeting was adjourned.



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