APESMA has raised concerns about the Victorian Government?s reliance on costings by people without the right expertise in a parliamentary inquiry committee hearing.
In a new APESMA survey of 56 Victorian Government engineers that was presented to the Committee, 83.6 per cent said the Victorian Government had relied too much on costing done by accountants and economists as opposed to people with project management skills directly related to a given project, such as an engineer.
CEO of APESMA Chris Walton said the Victorian Government needed to invest in its engineering workforce and tap into their infrastructure expertise.
“How could you possibly know how much a bridge would cost unless you had actually built one before?” Mr Walton said.
“Successive Governments have slashed Victoria’s engineering workforce and now Victorian taxpayers are paying for it.”
Mr Walton said 91.1 per cent of Victorian Government engineers surveyed believe the Government could save money by hiring more engineers to help it cost its infrastructure projects properly.
“One of the best things the Victorian Government could do is make sure it had enough engineers to once again become an informed purchaser of infrastructure,” Mr Walton said.
Mr Walton said the biggest problem Victoria faced at the moment wasn’t how it should pay for infrastructure spending it was how to prevent its worldclass engineering workforce leaving the State in the wake of a declining infrastructure spend and job losses in Victoria in key sectors.
“Governments around the country and around the world are looking for ways to build their infrastructure on time and on budget more often. That will be harder and harder with fewer engineers here,” Mr Walton said.
“Major firms which chose to locate here in the 90’s and early 2000’s – global firms – will start looking north and west, where there is investment and a focus on innovation. Queensland has just appointed a Chief Engineer, while Western Australia has established the Centre of Excellence and Innovation in Infrastructure Delivery.
“But Victoria hasn’t even entered the race. Less infrastructure investment and job losses in innovative industries will just make this a spiral of fewer engineers, cost-blowouts and delivery over-runs. We’ll be like South Australia in the nineties unless something is done now.”
More than 78 per cent of Victorian Government engineers also believe that a lack of engineering skills in the private sector has led to project blowouts.
The main reasons engineers have identified why Victorian Government infrastructure projects go over budget are:
• That the initial budget was too optimistic (66.1 per cent)
• A lack of expertise by the contractors (60.7 per cent) and
• Changes to the scope (48.2 per cent)
A similar picture emerged for the main reasons for a project typically gets delayed:
• That the initial timeframe was too optimistic (62.5 per cent)
• A lack of expertise from the contractors (58.9 per cent)
• And changes to the scope (53.6 per cent)
Mr Walton said the Victorian Government needed to do more to use its purchasing power to drive the development of engineering skills in the State with 92.3 per cent of engineers saying that the Government wasn’t doing enough in this area.