Beware: Fraudulent engineering certificates

The Institute for Timber Construction-SA (ITC-SA) frequently receives complaints regarding failing roof structures. Normally, the resolution of a complaint is fairly easy where an ITC-SA Fabricator, Erector, Inspector or Accredited Engineer employed to oversee the project is a current member of the Institute.

However, in recent cases in KwaZulu-Natal, the ITC-SA found that fraudulent engineering certificates were issued over some residential timber roof structures. The certificates issued were copies of documentation of a very competent engineer who has passed on, and which therefore had no value. The following consequences arose:

  • The occupation certificates issued by the local authority were not valid.
  • The insurance over the property was compromised, and the insurers would not consider any claims that arose due to these fraudulent certificates.

Considering that a roof is one of the most costly components of a building, and that replacement cost can easily exceed 30% of the original construction contract value, it remains imperative that accredited professionals be used in all facets of construction.

The following is provided to guide the unsuspecting home owner in the selection of accredited professionals:

 

WHAT IS A PROFESSIONAL BODY?

A professional body has the intent to protect the public interest in relation to the services provided by its members and the associated risks. Recognised and accredited professional bodies are mandated to develop, award, monitor and revoke its professional designations in terms of its own rules, legislation and/or international conventions.

A professional body must be a legally constituted entity with the necessary human and financial resources to
undertake its functions, governed either by a statute, charter or a constitution and be compliant with and adhere to good corporate governance practices.

All professional members shall abide by the Institution’s published Code of Conduct and the mechanism for the reporting and investigating of Institutional members who are alleged to have contravened this Code.

The accredited professional body shall not apply unfair or exclusionary practices in terms of membership admission to the body.

 

BENEFITS OF PROFESSIONAL RECOGNITION AND CONSEQUENCES FOR NON-PROFESSIONAL CONDUCT:

A professional designation shall be conferred by a professional body to an individual in the form of a title, status and/or registration number. This title, status and/or registration number may be used by the registered professionals as confirmation of recognised competence in delivering of a service to the public at large.

A professional designation indicates registration of the individual with a professional body, and, where relevant, the right to practice in the particular field of expertise governed by the professional body.

Retention of the status is dependent upon compliance with the stated requirements of the professional body concerned. Members in all designations will be confirmed as competent in the area of work for which they are registered. The Professional Body shall ensure that continuous professional development is offered to the registered designations, ensuring increased competence and reducing the risk to the consumer that has contracted with a listed professional.

Members in specific designations that are found to bring the Institution and the industry into disrepute shall be dealt with in terms of the Institution’s disiplinary procedure, and may be removed from the register of practicing professionals.

 

A TYPICAL CASE OF UTILISING THE SERVICES OF UNREGISTERED PROFESSIONALS:

In this particular case, the consumers that were left unprotected would have benefitted from using an ITC-SA accredited professional.

This would have included the preparation of a rational design in full compliance with SANS standards and material specifications, the fabrication of the roof structures by ITC-SA accredited Fabricators, the erection of the roofs by ITC-SA accredited Roof Erectors, and the inspection and certification by ITC-SA accredited Inspectors and Engineers.

The professionalisation of the timber industry will, in future, ensure that local authorities demand ITC-SA professional services in the various designations, and specifically in the inspection and certification of rational designs. Statutory bodies like the NHBRC will now be able to prescribe confirmation of structural integrity by the recognised professional body (in this case, the ITC-SA).

Insurance houses will now be able to demand that inspections and certification by the ITC-SA professional
members be submitted as a prerequisite to providing cover, and/or to assess claims against an insured peril prior to making any awards. Existing structures may also benefit from inspections and certification to circumvent possible future claims being waived on structures that are found uncompliant and were never inspected and certified.

Property owners will benefit from the availability of certification by recognised professionals on the structure when claims arise due to failure or injury as well as the resale of the property. Claims that may arise due to latent defects that may manifest at a later stage will be circumvented and the certification will protect the property owner where tampering with the structure causes failure or failure-related claims after properties were sold on.

For more information, visit www.itc-sa.org.

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