The facts of the matter

The facts of the matter

There is a great deal of chuntering going on within the industry concerning various bodies and activities in the industry. Discussions such as this is good, but most of the time it is not what is said but how and where it is said.

The ‘how’ is often a misrepresentation of the facts, most often to make a point, which later is corrected, but by then the initial story has grown beyond recognition and created such a confused and complex scenario that it is best to look at the facts all over again.

Let’s first take a look at the legislation – those that make the laws, and are custodians of the laws:

  • An ACT of Parliament indicates the intention of the lawmakers.
  • A REGULATION provides the function of the Act.
  • A STANDARD provides the performance required for functioning and achieving the intent and functionality of the Act and Regulation, respectively.

All standards are voluntary. Only when called up by an Act does it become a compulsory standard/specification. Being a national law, it supersedes any Provincial or Local bylaw.

“Being a national law, it supersedes any Provincial or Local bylaw.”

This is made clear in section 15.1 Status of Municipalities, of the Constitution of South Africa:

  • Point 3: A municipality has the right to govern, on its own initiative, the local government affairs of its community, subject to national and provincial legislation, as provided for in the Constitution.
  • Point 4: Qualifies that such national and provincial bodies may not compromise or impede a municipalities ability or right to exercise its powers or perform its functions.
  • In 15.2 (d) one of the objectives is for local authorities is to promote a safe and healthy environment. (Common sense tells us that a national law is provided for that reason and it makes no sense for a local authority to change it as safety and health applies to all citizens in all regions).

The National Regulator for Compulsory Specifications (NRCS) is the enforcer of compulsory standards/specifications and as such will provide support for the Building Control Officer and his/her Inspectors. It is their responsibility to enforce national standards which would be included in the local bylaws, usually created to serve the specific needs of the local community. In our industry local authorities may or may not have a list of qualified plumbers permitted to work in the city/town area.

[Editor’s comment: A discussion on one of the social media platforms where a BCO or Inspector stated that a body should “Go to the Competitions Commission regarding a matter”, will come up later.]

We asked the NRCS if this was acceptable in a BCO/Inspectors position, here is the response: “The function of the BCO is to advise the Council of the local authority regarding any plans, specifications, documents and information submitted to such local authority in terms of building applications.

NRCS cannot see that the BCO has authority: to advise anybody to engage by means of litigation or otherwise as the ACT is quite clear in section 6 which prescribes the function of the BCO.”

Further chatter claimed that the NRCS was on the Board of the PIRB. We queried this and herewith the reply:

“The NRCS is not part of the PIRB and does not sit on the Board nor has the NRCS any representation at the PIRB Board.”

But, oh boy, did these irresponsible statements gain some traction – no results though!

[Editor’s comment: The how and the where is important. Once something has appeared it remains. Whether stated electronically or in print or any other means of communication, it sticks and invites comments and opinions – which is fine, since everyone is entitled to an opinion. The problem is when it is about the initial miscommunication this spreads like – well, a virus!]

The SA Qualifications Authority (SAQA) is the overseeing body of the National Qualifications Framework Act of 2008 and the custodian of its values and quality character. They have a set of objectives one of which is, “Recognise professional bodies and register professional designations.”

This applies to statutory and non-statutory bodies. Statutory is through an Act of Parliament such as for architects, doctors, engineers, whereas non-statutory bodies are a voluntary body – no one can be forced to join, but it is recognised, by law, as a body of competent persons/organisations that operate in the interest of a sector/industry as per NQF 2008.

“To state, as has happened on several occasions, that PIRB is illegal is incorrect and untrue. ”

To state, as has happened on several occasions, that PIRB is illegal is incorrect and untrue. Such a statement has a ripple effect especially to those just joining the industry and youngsters in the industry.

Does this make PIRB and any volunteer group perfect? Of course not, and none of these bodies claim to be perfect. But how to handle the situation is where the wheels can potentially fall off.

It behoves each and every one of us to sit down and discuss, debate, and listen in a mature and professional manner. Offers to do this have been made and not even declined, just ignored. This publication has offered the same and met with those concerned plumbers. A document was drawn up a presented in a form that would make a meeting constructive – again no response, no feedback, nada!

How then does this justify the criticism, the mis-information and the attacks on a body formed for the good of the industry? Sure, aspects can be challenged, but in the correct way and when the correct way is suggested with no response, none of the attacks can be justified.

There are always two sides of the story and the how is essential. Sit and talk guys, and use media (especially social media) for the right reasons! 

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