The Department of Basic Education (DBE) has been allocated funds by the National Treasury for addressing the backlogs in the eradication of inappropriate school structures and the provision of basic services (water, sanitation and electricity) to schools. The Accelerated Schools Infrastructure Delivery Initiative (ASIDI) is part of DBE’s schooling 2025 plan, which is aimed at improving learning outcomes and bringing better access to education. ASIDI was conceived to be a medium- to long-term initiative, with the goal of eliminating the backlogs in schools infrastructure.
Historically the DBSA, through its 2008 Education Roadmap and its role in infrastructure development, understood the dire need for appropriate school infrastructure.
The main goal of ASIDI is to eradicate inadequate, unsafe and poor physical infrastructure in schools by properly utilising funding that will be made available to the DBE under the Schools Infrastructure Backlog Grant (SIBG) allocations in the Division of Revenue Act.
The primary objectives of the ASIDI programme are to:
• Replace, in the medium term, schools that have been built with inappropriate materials (for example mud schools) with the new standards so as to meet the optimum functionality levels prescribed by norms and standards for schools infrastructure
• Address all targeted schools that need to be brought up to basic safety functionality levels (water, sanitation, electricity and fencing) in the medium term
• Upgrade schools in the long term to optimum functionality by providing associated and specialist classrooms facilities such as libraries, laboratories and administration blocks.
THE DBSA’S APPOINTMENT AS ONE OF THE IMPLEMENTING AGENTS
The DBE entered into a memorandum of agreement with the DBSA in July 2011, appointing the DBSA as the implementing agent for the construction of new schools under the ASIDI programme. Through its Infrastructure Delivery Division (IDD), the DBSA has been able to strengthen the DBE’s capacity to deliver schools infrastructure.
The DBSA’s implementation of ASIDI programme has been grounded on the principles of the Infrastructure Delivery Framework as follows:
• Ensure delivery at scale through:
– Increasing the speed with which infrastructure is delivered
– Increasing the impact of infrastructure delivery on reduction of backlogs, job creation and skills development
• Increase the quality, cost efficiency and value for money of infrastructure delivery through standardisation
• Streamline infrastructure delivery and co-ordination
• Fast-track delivery whilst simultaneously building institutional capacity
• Pilot innovative infrastructure delivery models.
The DBSA has constructed 129 and completed 111 schools for the DBE. The schools have been completed in phases based on when handover to contractor took place and the size and scope of the school. DBSA is currently managing the completion of the remaining 18 schools.
The schools constructed by the DBSA optimise functionality levels as prescribed in the DBE’s Guidelines Relating to Planning for Public Schools Infrastructure. The schools provide for three space configurations – educational space (classrooms, grade R facilities and toilets), supporting space (multimedia space and nutritional facilities) and administrative space (principal office, HOD offices and staff room).
NUMBER OF LEARNERS THAT HAVE BENEFITED
The 111 schools completed have benefited 43 632 learners, who enrolled as follows:
• 3 344 learners in 17 schools completed in 2013
• 8 956 learners in 32 schools completed in 2014
• 9 162 learners in 15 schools completed in 2015
• 17 916 learners in 35 schools completed in 2016
• 4 254 learners in 12 schools completed in 2017.
The number of learners that have benefited from the schools in subsequent years after completion, would have multiplied over the years. This is the impact that the DBSA has been contributing in the provision of standard schools infrastructure on behalf of the DBE.
BENEFITS TO EMPLOYMENT AND THE DEVELOPMENT OF SMALL MEDIUM AND MICRO ENTERPRISES
The DBSA has been able to maximise the employment of SMMEs during the construction of schools projects. The majority of the SMMEs have been subcontracted by the main contractors that are directly employed by the DBSA. To date, 1 267 SMMEs and subcontractors have benefited from these employment opportunities. In addition, 12 061 jobs were created.
The major challenge facing SMMEs have been access to working capital. It was therefore key for the DBSA to ensure payments are made on time within 30 days. The DBSA has a two-week payment cycle, which allows for any invoice to be paid within 14 days of approval. In some cases the DBSA paid material suppliers directly to ensure that materials are delivered to site and that work continued.
The DBSA successfully incorporated social facilitation in our projects as a critical element which has assisted in drawing communities closer to the projects. IDD’s development facilitators established project steering communities in all construction and maintenance projects and included representatives such as ward councillors and local chiefs in the case of rural projects. They were able to address conflict between workers and contractors/subcontractors, especially around payment of wages.
The roll-out of the ASIDI programme provided the DBSA with an opportunity to improve our implementing agent function.
There have been various challenges throughout the construction programme that caused delays in all the sites; including:
• One of the biggest challenges is that many contractors have not been able to cope with the challenges posed by the difficult terrain and the accelerated nature of the programme, as evidenced by the rate of default and the number of contract terminations we exercised
• Contractors send non-technical personnel to tender briefing sessions and end up submitting unrealistic bids. This affects mostly projects which have difficult terrain and problematic access, which they should have mitigated and priced beforehand.
• Liquidation of some contractors, which inevitably affected the baseline completion programme agreed with DBE
• Poor access to sites, often with no roads, especially in the Eastern Cape
• Difficult and sloped terrain
• Adverse weather conditions resulted in man-days being lost.
IDD had to increase monitoring of project sites to speed up progress, availed an option to pay for material suppliers directly and worked with contractors to increase the number of sub-contractors and resources team on sites.
• The Infrastructure Portfolio Management Plan from DBE was crucial for the DBSA development of Infrastructure Programme Implementation Plan
• Timelines must be agreed to after detailed planning. Use historical experience and prevailing conditions in determining reasonable project durations
• Sensitivity towards client capacity challenges – broadened support to include planning.
• Maintain localisation for developmental benefits as well as understanding of terrain and local area
• Establish panels of suppliers
• Thorough risk assessment and background checks to be done on tenders and awards to be based on value for money.
• Services bundling to be maintained as far as practical – at least five schools to a single principal agent
• Take previous experiences of contractors into consideration.
• Develop a logistics support plan and request demand management plan from contractors
• Continue the good practice of development facilitation to unlock community conflict
• Early engagement with Eskom and consider the escalation protocol.
• Maintain the practice
• Due diligence on appointment of PSPs.
• Align planning with construction delivery approach.
Manufacture, fabrication and construction
• Incorporate alternative building technology (ABT) in future programmes delivery
Works / construction
• Use hybrid approach within reasonable limits
• One PA limited to less than ten school cluster
• Allow for sectional completion in contracts
• Maintain the timeous payment practice to contractors
• Increase fees aligned to close-out.
• DBSA to be involved in planning of handover and obtain information timeously.
IDD learned that there needs to be a review of the model used to accelerate delivery on the rural schools, particularly relating to the use of building technologies that may enhance the speed of construction without compromising quality as well as the mix of Grade 7 to 9 GBE and smaller contractors within the context of fulfilling empowerment and developmental goals.
A CASE OF ACCELERATED DELIVERY FROM A CONTRACTOR POINT OF VIEW
The Langeni Senior Primary School (SPS) in the Libode Education District of the Eastern Cape is an example of a school that the DBSA has successfully completed within an 11-month construction period. The school, comprising of seven classrooms, a Grade R classroom, media centre, science lab, nutrition centre, administration block, ablution facilities and external structures was completed in March 2015. Contractors such as Ishvuyo Building Construction have been able to live to the challenge of accelerating construction activities.
The projects sites are in deep in the rural areas of the Eastern Cape with poor access roads. The contractor familiarised himself with the area before construction commenced. In order to make the project a success, the contractor planned around the poor site location and derived solutions for the challenges at hand. Once appointed, the contractor did a resource plan and used capable technical personnel within his team to do proper scheduling and planning. It is critical that contractors have skilled personnel that can do scheduling and resource planning. The contractor was able to quickly assemble core staff and mobilise workers without delay. This also allowed the contractor to be able to order material on time.
The contractor had also built strong relationships with reliable buyers and material suppliers which enabled him to secure scarce material. What worked for the contractor was he was able to split units of special deliveries using 4x4 trucks, cranes, etc. to assist with quick and easy access for delivering and offloading material, even if terrain was difficult as a result of rains in the Eastern Cape. Proper scheduling also assisted with proper cash flow planning and forecasting. This ensured that the contractor had sufficient financial resources to do this in line with his CIDB grading.
To maintain a high quality of construction, the contractor also had capable site agents, which made the task of construction much easier. There was mutual respect between the site agent and the workers. Senior Directors of the contracting company were in contact with the site on a daily basis. They physically visited the site and coordinated work and planning items on the sites.
The value contribution by the IDD’s development facilitators also played a critical role. The contractor found it easy to work as the development facilitators set up project steering committees, comprising of the chief, chairperson of the school governing body and local councillor also as members. It was also easy to gain respect for the steering committee and the community at large when the contractor was honouring commitments made to local labour. These lessons assisted the IDD team in improving the management of other sites that are currently in implementation.
THE DBSA CONTINUES PROVIDING SUPPORT TO THE DEPARTMENT OF BASIC EDUCATION
The DBSA continues to support the DBE build schools in prioritised areas. For 2018, the DBE has allocated a further 15 schools to the DBSA. The partnership with the DBE has opened further relationships for the DBSA to also support the provincial departments of education. During 2017, IDD commenced the realignment, construction and refurbishment of storm-damaged schools for the KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo and Eastern Cape Departments of Education.