For some decades Engineers Australia and IPWEA have been calling for a position of Chief Engineer to be appointed in state and local government.
This week the Victorian State Government appointed Dr Collette Burke as its first Chief Engineer. Dr Burke has been appointed to provide expert advice to the State Government on major project design and engineering, and to help the Government establish a registration system for Victorian engineers. Collette has experience in both the private and public sectors, having been appointed Director to the VicTrack Board in 2015, and currently serving as Managing Director of engineering consulting firm, Exner Group. She is also a former Director of the National Association of Women in Construction.
This new role sits within the newly created Office of Projects Victoria (OPV) which is an independent Administrative Office contained within the Department of Treasury and Finance.
Overseeing the development and delivery of the state’s major infrastructure projects, Dr Burke will bring project management skills across government and advise on asset management decisions and project delivery initiatives.
IPWEA was encouraged in 2016 when the Victorian Government released its LGV Better Practice Guide on Local Government Asset Management. LGV has sought to align its guidance with IPWEA’s National Asset Management Strategy (NAMS). The IPWEA NAMS Framework is aligned with ISO 55000.
This LGV best practice guide to asset management cites IPWEA’s NAMS and NAMS.PLUS as representing such a best practice model.
At the end of last year IPWEA Australasia signed a formal MoU with the highly regarded CT Management Group to assist Victorian councils with transitioning to NAMS and NAMS.PLUS.
This new appointment of Chief Engineer is one more significant step in the road to asset management improvement for Victoria.
As state governments have their credit rating underpinned by both state and local government assets, it is essential that such assets are not only accurately recorded and valued, but that they are managed in a cost-efficient and professional manner.
The Chief Engineer will oversee high value high risk projects and provide assurance to the government, focussing on technical design and engineering scope.
The role also includes providing advice on the procurement and tender process; technical, design and engineering standards; technical due diligence; asset investment proposals; and how to improve projects that are behind schedule, over budget or not achieving the desired outcomes.
There can only be positive flow-on impacts for local government in Victoria.
IPWEA understands that the ACT government is about to follow suit by announcing their own Chief Engineer.
Australia’s public infrastructure spend could be well served by having such a role in each state and territory plus nationally. If the role of Australia’s Chief Scientist is valued (as rightly it should be) then why not an Australian Chief Engineer to advise the Commonwealth Government and work collaboratively with respective counterparts in each state?
The remit for any Chief Engineer should be someone highly experienced in all areas of complex public and private infrastructure projects with significant depth of understand of the engineering and design issues and infrastructure lifecycle cots and management; as well as procuring and managing teams to deliver projects on time and within budget.