Concerned about delays in the planning and design stages of provincial health infrastructure projects, Mr Mbongiseni Gcaba, Chief Director for Infrastructure Development at the KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) Health Department, decided to embark on a research study for which he was awarded a Master of Business Administration (MBA).
It is commonly assumed that major delays to projects occur during the procurement of a contractor or in the construction stage. Gcaba’s study titled Factors constraining the planning and design process for public health construction projects in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, scientifically analysed the causes of delays during these stages. With guidance from his supervisor Dr Bhasela Yalezo of the Graduate School of Business and Leadership, he was able to navigate his research journey during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic which exposed many deficiencies in public health facilities and systems and called for agility to plan, design and implement projects in the shortest possible time.
The study revealed a number of delays caused by incomplete project requirements. Budgets escalate as project requirements change unnecessarily. The study calls for due diligence in the compilation and documentation of project requirements by means of an effective stakeholder engagement strategy. It also recommends the use of applicable procurement options to meet service delivery objectives.
The KwaZulu-Natal Departments of Health and Public Works work together on health-related projects, with the former leading the planning stage whilst the latter leads the design. The study identified gaps and duplications in the project governance process between the two departments. It highlights the need to improve communication and collaboration and proposes an integrated project governance model that harnesses the strengths of both departments in the interests of project success as opposed to territorial priorities.
Other recommendations include improving the project delivery process by streamlining the procurement of consultants, project leadership, review and standardisation of policies and standards, and staff training and development.
In line with the GSB&L’s mission to conduct research that makes a positive contribution to the public and private sectors, Gcaba will share his research findings and recommendations with the two departments. He said: ‘I am optimistic that they will adopt some if not the majority of the recommendations to improve project planning and design. Being aware of what is working against project success will also improve the way I mentor and guide those around me. Improved infrastructure planning processes should improve implementation of projects.’
A seasoned Comrades Marathon runner with 10 races and a Green Number under his belt, Gcaba likened the MBA journey to the marathon’s hills and hurdles. He advised postgraduate students to ‘Focus your heart and mind on the end goal. Appreciate each experience including the team dynamics. Never allow negativity to hold you back. Be a team player, but focus your effort on finishing the race.’
His delight at his achievement was magnified by graduating with his 20-year-old son Mr Wandile Mvelase (Bachelor of Social Sciences), who is currently pursuing an Honours in Community Development Studies in Humanities, UKZN. Gcaba is grateful for support from his family and supervisor: ‘Working with a supervisor like Dr Yalezo was an honour. He made me believe in myself. His guidance and motivational approach kept me going. He is a true servant leader.’
Yalezo said it was a pleasure to supervise Gcaba and described him as a dedicated, diligent student who listens to good advice. ‘Congratulations to you Mr Gcaba, I’m proud of you and look forward to seeing you graduate again for your PhD!’ said Yalezo.
Words: Hazel Langa
Photograph: Abhi Indarajan