/ 9 June 2017

‘Old guard’ architects resisting change

‘Nothing to hide’: Sacap president Yashaen Luckan didn’t get a 76% salary rise.
‘Nothing to hide’: Sacap president Yashaen Luckan didn’t get a 76% salary rise.

An article in the Mail & Guardian last week, “Architects take on bully council”, attempted to dig deeper into a series of allegations levelled by a group of architects, known as A4C, against the South African Council for the Architectural Profession (Sacap). The article failed to cite evidence for the claims.

Sacap also takes issue with lack of inclusion and comment by the department of public works and the Council for the Built Environment. Both bodies (together with Sacap) are mandated by Acts of Parliament to deliver resolutions to critical issues mistakenly and solely levelled against Sacap.

Sacap president Yashaen Luckan says: “The resistance to transformation by the ‘old guard’ has simply been disguised as ‘whistle-blowing’. We have nothing to hide, our books are open. The unfortunate misunderstanding among some professionals regarding the council’s mandates and its statutory limitations is being exploited by the A4C, who are calling into question our ethics, capabilities and motivations with defamatory, slanderous allegations. They’re all unsubstantiated, lacking prima facie evidence.”

Sacap’s response to each allegation and demand was published on our website in March. In the M&G article, members of A4C reasserted the allegations. We will address those, but first the broader context.

The Architectural Professions Act of 2000 replaced the Architects Act of 1970, which only recognised professional architects. Thus representation on the register of professionals reflects more than 80% of professional architects as white and predominantly male.

The new Act recognised that the vast majority of those doing architectural work, and from historically disadvantaged backgrounds, were not given the opportunity of architectural education and professional registration. This changed the profession and its education. Draughtspersons, technologists and senior technologists were now afforded professional registration. The register of architectural professionals soon changed accordingly. This marked the beginning of resistance from a number of professional architects who felt their work would not be protected and their fees would be threatened.

The reasons for the withdrawal of the Identity of Work framework and the professional fees guidelines are publicly documented, yet A4C chooses to blame Sacap for not serving the interests of the profession.

Sacap has assumed an ethical responsibility for working with the government to address past imbalances and transform the built environment. It has a public protection mandate, and holds registered persons accountable for rule 2.1 of Sacap’s code of professional conduct, which states that a Sacap registrant may only perform such work as they are professionally qualified and competent to undertake, according to their registration category.

The council undertook to reinstate the recognition of prior learning (RPL), a key transformation driver, which had previously been put on hold.

Recognising prior learning affords those who acquired skills and knowledge through experience an opportunity to achieve the status of a higher professional registration category. They are predominantly historically disadvantaged people.

Sacap is proud to have designed a new RPL online system (under the guidance of its president, whose PhD focused on transformation of architectural education), which has recently been implemented.

Responses from historically ignored people and their representative voluntary associations has been overwhelmingly positive. But resistance from the “old guard”, through A4C (not an official voice of the profession), has risen to new heights.

Several members of the previous board, who are signatories to the A4C petition, were responsible for the anti-transformative moratorium regarding the recognition of prior learning. Those resisting transformation hope to replace the current council and get the “professional gatekeepers” back on to it.

On specific inaccuracies in the article:

  • Dr Yashaen Luckan, Sacap’s president, did not receive a pay hike of 76% — he does not earn a salary. Honorariums, based on the department of public service and administration scale, are not paid on a set monthly rate but according to the delivery of specific and variable works each month.
  • Registrar/chief executive Marella O’Reilly was never charged by the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA). The Council for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration found that her suspension from the HPCSA was unfair and illegal and she should be reinstated. Sacap’s council reappointed her without reservation.
  • Sacap has received no prima facie evidence to suggest an improper supply management procedure was followed in the appointment of Litha-Lethu as human resources consultants to Sacap.
  • No evidence has been tabled to suggest a “close friendship” existed between O’Reilly and Litha-Lethu director Sian Dennis. Dennis only became acquainted with O’Reilly after the tender had been awarded to Litha-Lethu and once the project had commenced.
  • It is inaccurate to state that the final Litha-Lethu report “makes no mention of the need for salary adjustments”. There were a multiplicity of reports dealing with the skills audit, job evaluation, values alignment, competency assessments, organisational design and restructuring.
  • The cited March 26 minutes are from 2015, wherein Diane Arvanitakis’s discomfort was noted. The minutes reflect that the proposed restructure was approved by the rest of the executive committee, whose decisions were to be ratified by the council. Arvanitakis was assured that the document submitted to the executive committee included the recommendations of human resources and the remuneration committee.

The subcommittee of council does not have the requisite capacity to undertake a benchmarking excersise, nor the requisite authorisation to get involved in the minutiae of a skills audit. Its function is to review, test and approve or disapprove the final report and its recommendations.

  • The remuneration committee’s terms of reference allow for the outsourcing of any specialist skills the committee requires. In 2015, Sacap had no human resources unit, so HR auditing and salary benchmarking were outsourced.
  • Sacap has received no prima facie evidence that its council members are underqualified, or that its registrar has control over who is appointed to the council.
  • The council did not object to its registered members signing the petition. Yet derogatory statements made in the public domain in the petition’s comments section, which slandered fellow professionals and the council, may constitute “professional misconduct”.
  • Because of the lack of prima facie evidence, a forensic audit has not been commissioned by Sacap.

Sacap continues to invite all its stakeholders to participate in Sacap’s open-door policy and vision.

The M&G apologises for errors of fact in last week’s article, and for failing to pursue adequate responses to claims made

On 2 June, the Mail & Guardian published an article “Architects take on bully council”, about a series of allegations levelled by a group of architects, known as A4C, against the South African Council for the Architectural Profession (Sacap).

One of the allegations – made in a letter written to Parliament – was that the council’s registrar had appointed a

close corporation Litha-Lethu Management Solutions to undertake a benchmarking exercise without following proper supply-chain management procedure and that the registrar was friends with the corporation’s member Ms Siân Dennis.

However, the Mail & Guardian did not seek comment from Ms Ms Dennis or Litha Lethu Management Solutions on this allegation. On 9 June 2017, the Mail & Guardian ran a full right-to-reply response from Sacap, which asserted that the registrar and Ms Dennis had only became acquainted after the tender was awarded. Ms Dennis has also subsequently responded that their relationship is purely a professional one.

The article also incorrectly referred to a “final report” of the council, which made no mention of the need for salary adjustments. However, the document seen by the M&G was not a final report.

The Mail & Guardian apologises unreservedly to both Ms Dennis and Litha-Lethu Management Solutions