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A unique project management approach, focusing on in-house technical, legal and financial expertise, is passing on major benefits for clients and communities, as MCPM demonstrates on three infrastructure projects.

Working on complex initiatives, ranging from public-private partnerships (PPPs) to large-scale infrastructure roll-outs for local municipalities and metros, continues to hone Masithu Consulting and Project Management’s (MCPM’s) skills and positions this Durban-based firm for major expansion.

Established in 2008, MCPM is 100% black owned and managed, with fields of interest that encompass municipal infrastructure engineering, project management, renewable energy, housing, roads and transportation. MCPM provides innovative tailor-made professional services on large-scale projects from inception to close-out stage.

“Large infrastructure projects need to be legally, technically and financially sound to ensure their sustainability, which is especially important when seeking to attract PPP investors, while complying with the regulatory framework and legislative prescripts,” explains Sizwe Mchunu, head of MCPM. “The fact that we have in-house technical, legal and financial expertise to meet all these facets is what makes MCPM’s service offering so unique.”

On each project, the firm focuses on establishing partnerships that enable skills transfer, as its director, Phendukani Ntini, explains: “It’s common knowledge that most local municipalities still face significant skills shortages, especially when it comes to project implementation. We see each project appointment as the conception of a partnership that can be used to facilitate an integrated hub of skills and knowledge transfer, connecting the project sponsor and the end user. The impact must last way beyond our involvement.”

To support its own requirements, MCPM started 2017 with 10 engineering graduates from the class of 2015.

Sembcorp Siza Water Concession

One of MCPM’s exciting project opportunities to date has been their extensive involvement in the Sembcorp Siza Water Concession, a PPP initiative that has synchronised government objectives on basic service delivery with the expectations of private investors in the water sector.

Located in KwaZulu-Natal, about 35 km north of Durban, the concession was formed  in 1999 to meet the water and sanitation needs of the Ballito community and surrounding areas of Ilembe District Municipality. It was the first PPP for water services in South Africa and is a 30-year concession agreement. Sembcorp took over the concession in 2012 and is the current operator responsible for water and wastewater services within the municipal boundary. “Back in 1999, the former Dolphin Coast, now Ilembe District Municipality, was faced with technical capacity constraints against a backdrop of high demand for residential and commercial development in the area,” Mchunu explains. “A solution was urgently required to avert a potential water and sanitation infrastructure supply shortfall, which could have severely stifled economic growth.”

The concession area covers 12.5 km² and encompasses approximately  60 000 users, who vary greatly, from the poorest to the wealthiest, from urban to rural, from residential to commercial and light industrial.

The monitoring agent

Ilembe appointed MCPM in January 2013 to assist with the monitoring and performance review of the concession over a period of three years, which was extended and now comes to an end in mid-2017.

“In 2015, the concession reached its halfway mark. It was, therefore, imperative for the municipality to ensure meaningful measures were set in motion, and put in place preparatory succession planning for the eventual culmination of the concession contract,” says Mchunu. “Working on the technical key performance areas, MCPM was tasked with ascertaining the quality of infrastructure on the ground, its design life, the post-maintenance requirements, operational cost projections, plus confirming the infrastructure asset register Ilembe would inherit once the concession contract terminates in 2029.”

Using a value engineering approach based on analysis rather than pure auditing, MCPM’s integrated model encompasses technical, financial and legal factors.

Umgeni Water: PAS55 readiness

Proven expertise in these complex disciplines subsequently led to MCPM securing another landmark project within the water and sanitation field during 2014/15.

Pragma Africa, a leading infrastructure asset management company, approached MCPM to participate as a contract participation goals (CPG) partner in Umgeni Water’s Asset Condition Assessment Programme. The project formed part of Umgeni’s asset management strategy aimed at achieving PAS55 (ISO 55000) certification over a two-year period. This is the first recorded initiative to seek ISO 55000 by a local water board. It will also be the first ISO 55000 certification of its kind in Africa if Umgeni can achieve this within the next three years, which is their target.

The intention of the CPG is to provide exposure and technology transfer to small and medium-sized companies by facilitating collaboration between specialist, well-established local and multinational entities on projects. MCPM was extensively involved in and responsible for a range of outcomes. These include the realignment of existing asset management protocols to PAS55 standards, engineering asset performance and condition assessment.

MCPM’s experience with Umgeni now provides opportunities to work with other South African water boards embarking on the same path.

eThekwini Water and Sanitation

Meeting South Africa’s water and sanitation objectives is an absolute priority, and especially critical in addressing the challenges of informal settlements.

Here, MCPM is helping to make a difference following the firm’s appointment on to eThekwini Municipality’s consulting panel in April 2016. eThekwini’s Water and Sanitation Unit is rolling out essential services to informal settlements and schools over a three-year period using multiple engineering consultants and contractors. This is the third phase of eThekwini’s ongoing water and sanitation implementation and is valued at close to R1 billion.

MCPM is currently involved in works packages that include a bulk pipeline and pump station, which are both at the construction stage. The pipeline works predominately entail the construction of a 900 mm diameter sewer connection measuring 5.6 km in length with up to eight bridge crossings. The scope of works is valued at R180 million. eThekwini’s Water and Sanitation programme uses the New Engineering Contract 3 (NEC3). NEC3 contracts are designed to encourage collaboration and teamwork, and dovetail well with the integration of multidisciplinary engineering services. “In fact, it allows stakeholders to work in a coordinated fashion in the management of project risk, thus accelerating project delivery,” says Ntini. MCPM is constantly reinventing itself to evolve with future demands and global engineering trends as an integrated professional services provider.

“Given the demand, economic growth, and an enabling investor scenario, we are optimistic that South Africa’s water and sanitation sector will be a viable option for PPP initiatives, where we now have experience and a track record when it comes to deliverables. We are ready to engage and acilitate,” concludes Mchunu.