A new report has revealed that South Africa’s public infrastructure is at risk of failure due to a plethora of reasons, including crime, non-payment for services, inadequate management and poor maintenance.
The Infrastructure Report Card (IRC) released on Friday rated the overall condition of South Africa’s infrastructure as a D, the lowest rating since the first IRC launched in 2006.
The 60-page report by the South African Institution of Civil Engineering (SAICE) reflects an expert view of the institution’s reporting on the current condition of a broad range of public infrastructure and its impact on public and economic wellbeing.
The IRC scorecard, which assessed performance of 32 subsectors of infrastructure, was based on a simple five-point scale ranging from A which means world class to E which means unfit for purpose.
Saice said South Africa’s public infrastructure at D grading was not coping with normal demand and was poorly maintained, meaning that it was likely that the public would be subjected to severe inconvenience and even danger without prompt action.
Saice president-elect Steven Kaplan said the condition of infrastructure has been in steady decline since their first report in 2006.
Kaplan said for the current period, only three subsectors show improvement while 12 have deteriorated while 10 were already at risk of failure or worse.
“We aim to also stimulate debate on the condition of South Africa’s infrastructure and its effect on the quality of life and the economy.”
In terms of water, the report found that the quality and reliability of water supply has decreased in small towns and rural systems though the national water resources infrastructure system has been able to meet the demands for which it was designed.
At least 16% of households still need improved sanitation as major urban areas were rated C while all other areas were rated E.
The report found that there was slight reduction in the provision of refuse removal services in urban areas and a significant increase in indiscriminate dumping in rural areas.
According to the report, the consequences of the widespread underfunding of road maintenance and improvement was cause for great concern.
In terms of the airports infrastructure, Saice found that while aircraft and passenger safety were not compromised during Covid-19 pandemic, renewal and maintenance were.
Commercial ports were rated B and fishing harbours were B while it said that oil and gas pipelines were inspected and maintained as rigorously as their location permits.
However, Eskom generating infrastructure was rated D and transmission network rated B, resulting in the increasing unreliability of supply, increasing tariffs, and the increasing availability of alternative sources of electricity.
It also found that municipal fire protection services were inadequate, and public sector buildings were not compliant with fire safety regulations.
Although the general condition of information and communication technology was found to be good, Saice said theft and/or vandalism was cause for concern.
Saice said that factors influencing the gradings included crime and non-payment for services, inadequate infrastructure management and maintenance, and weak institutions lacking appropriate skills and accurate data.
However, being a condition and performance assessment, the IRC does not prescribe remedies to the findings.
IRC research leader Dr Kevin Wall said they hoped the report would inform and influence all South Africans about the importance of protecting and enhancing the physical infrastructure that is so critical to daily existence and common prosperity.
“We hope that it contributes to the improved use of infrastructure funding, especially for preventative maintenance,” Wall said.
“We expect that it will stimulate debate on the matters raised herein by the professionals who grapple daily with meeting the infrastructure needs of a nation.”