Professionalism & Ethics with Special Reference to the Registration & Practice of Surveyors in South Africa

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Professionalism and ethics with special reference to the registration and practice of surveyors in South Africa
A surveyor is a person entitled with at least a 4 year university degree; a surveyor is recognised as registered one or the other in one of the following: professional, technologist and technician. According to the registration body South African Geomatics Council (SAGC), it is expected that apart from the qualification requirements for registration, all of the above mentioned professionals are endangered to a code of conduct enforced by a procedure of discipline. (Paul Marshall,Plato, 2011)According to (Paul Marshall,Plato, 2011), In 1984 the statutory councils were reconstituted under a new legislation which was introduced to open the registration umbrella so as to enhance other “non-professional” participants in the industry.The SAGC Act enforces professionalism on its members by accrediting the academic and technical competencies through its education advisory committee and enhances the attitude and service levels through the code of conduct (Paul Marshall,Plato, 2011).
The intention of the early codes of conduct was to maintain a reasonable income for professionals so that they could compete on quality and service rather than on price. Sadly, now our profession as well as most others are reduced to competing only on price. Much of this can be ascribed to the aggressive interference in the “professions” by the competitions board during the past fifteen or so years. (Paul Marshall,Plato, 2011)Professional ethics are far less defined and are as, if not more, important than the prescribed rules of coduct. Professional ethics govern our actions as registered persons in our behaviour toward each other, our clients, our staff and generally to the public at large.In terms of Section 19 (1) of the Geomatics Profession Act 19, 2013, it states that “all members are obliged to carry out geomatics work in a professional manner guided by skill, competency and intergrity”. (SAGC, 2017) “Professionalism, ethics, and morals cannot be separated and with these in place it is seldom possible to betray trust. On the other hand, those are not the only aspects that make up a professional individual; responsibility and accountability are also integral ingredients of being a professional.” (Siyabonga Khanyeza, 2015)Function and powers of registration body and the voluntary organisation SAGC
The SAGC protects the public and clients against harm of malpractice by implementing and regulating the Geomatics Profession Act through a defined set of disciplinary procedures, as outlined in the act. It also maintains a register of registered professionals.SAGI (South African Geomatics Institute): is a Public Benefit Organisation focusing on the business aspects of registered experts in the fields of Land Surveying, Engineering Surveying, GIS, Planning, Land Management, Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing – commonly now termed Geomatics. It also assists in networking and sharing common challenges in surveying or GIS, this is normally done through scheduled workshops and conferences.SARWA (South African Right of Way Association): This is an association that assist in sharing information amongst members, practitioners associated with the acquisition of property rights. This is also done through workshops and conferences. In addition it also promotes the development of its members through education and training. The association underwrite the fair, ethical, transparent, and professional conduct of its members.
Professionalism and ethics in surveying
According to (Paul Marshall,Plato, 2011) he defined professionalism as the carrying out of a calling with a high degree of academic and technical competence in line with an accepted code of conduct.Siyabonga Khanyeza (2015), emphasised that there are no technological answers for ethical questions, being professional is more about ethics than being good with technology.All registered surveyors are subject to a code of conduct, which is set out in the rules promulgated in terms of Act under Rule 15-Improper Conduct. Failure to the surveyor to abide to the rules he or she shall face a sanction which could lead to the removal of ones name from the register altogether.
Surveyors have always had a code of conduct to follow since the advent of the old PLATO council (Act 40 of 1984) and before. It is the same legacy that will form the basis of the new council that is provided for in the new Geomatics Act 19 of 2013. Furthermore, surveyors are known to hold high ethical and moral standards and are highly regarded.In terms of Section 19(1) of the Geomatics Profession Act 19, 2013, the purpose of the code of conduct is described as: (SAGC, 2017) “(a) Make rules prohibiting actions or conduct by members or by geomatics practises, as the case may be, which constitute imprope conduct, and where such actions or conduct give rise to a charge of improper conduct against a member or a geomatics practice, which must be investigaed by Council in terms of section 20 of the Act; and (b)To ensure that all registered persons apply their knowledge and skills in the interest of their profession, the public and the environment and execute all work with integrity and professionalism”.
Professionalism is always expected to exhibit good ethics, behaviour and work habits. The kinds of ethics that can be interpreted in the geomatics discipline include honesty, responsibility, and accountability as well as abiding by the laws that govern the profession. (Siyabonga Khanyeza, 2015)Since ethics are discribed by (Paul Marshall,Plato, 2011) as how we behave when we know there is a very little likelyhood of us being found out.They are not legislated and are not easily taught.They relate directly to our personal l integrity and moral principles, Plato attempts to instil ethics through the mentorship structure. There is no substitute for shadowing a good mentor immediately after achieving an academic qualification. This unfortunately can have an equally negative outcome depending on the ethics level of the mentor.
EthicsIn terms of Section 19 of the Geomatics Profession
Act 19, 2013, it is explained and emphasised that the surveyor “may not engage in any act of dishonestly, corruption, bribery or unethical conduct (SAGC, 2017).A surveyor is taught from university that the qualities of a good surveyor include being honest, reliable, and trustworthy, and always doing checks when conducting survey”. (Siyabonga Khanyeza, 2015). the surveyor “must discharge their duties to their employers,clients, associates and the public with integrity,fidelity and honestly”.Fairness and honesty are the most important quality a surveyor should have (Surveyor, 2012). Surveyors usually deal with encroachments even at Rand Water we are dealing with several cases that concern encroachment, so it is expected of the surveyor to come forward if there’s a possibility of conflict of interest.Preserving the relationship with the clients should alyways be considered by every surveyor.The surveyor must always protect and make sure that the project information is kept safe and only accessible to the surveyors after the work is done.
ProfessionalismIn terms of Section 19(1) of the Geomatics Profession Act 19, 2013 the surveyor
(SAGC, 2017) “must not undertake any professional service under conditions or terms that would compromise their ability to carry out their responsibilty”. “a member must make professional decision and/or recommendations and/or provide professional opinions that are independent,honest, objective and based on an investigation and knowlegde of facts relevant to any matter in respect of which he or she is consulted by a client or employer”. “a member who is employed in his or her professional capacity must ensure that adequate supervision and control is exercised over persons who are answerable to or under the control, direction or supervision of the member, when undertaking geomatics profession work”.Being a leader or having people that reports under you e.g survey assistants, senior surveyor’s accountability extends even to those people that report under him or her. This mean that if a junior surveyor falsify the survey work and claim that he or she did not,the consequences of that will alyways come to the senior surveyor as the responsible party for supervising that particular junior.
Surveyors are highly regarded and are known to hold high ethical and moral standards. (Siyabonga Khanyeza, 2015).Being responsible is not only for the surveyors image but also for the organisation that he or she is working at. For example in Rand Water we are surveying a bulk water pipeline ,designing the pipe jacks in big roads or in railways where the pipe cannot be constructecd without jacking it under the road or rail. If the surveyor make a mistake in levels the mistake will affect the contractor, the company and the surveyor. In addition to registration, competency, and qualification, ethics are an integral part of being a successful and reliable surveyor.
Surveyors were taught in the first year of their diploma programme that the qualities of a good surveyor include being honest, reliable, and trustworthy, never being complacent and always doing checks when conducting surveys. This belief should always form the foundation of how to approach surveying tasks. It will enabled every surveyor to respect the profession and its rules (Siyabonga Khanyeza, 2015)Section 13(2) of the Geomatics Profession Act 19 of 2013 thereby ensure the integrity of the profession and its member by making provision for work reservation and is intended at reducing the risk of exposing the public to unqualified and unprofessional persons.
To act professionally does not start when one registers. Maintaining good ethical values should be embedded throughout an aspiring professional’s career. When a person gets to a stage where they are able to apply the acquired trade knowledge and are simultaneously able to use some of the strategic skills regarding the rules of that trade, then that person is truly a professional.Under the “powers and duties of council” in section 8, provisions are made for the Continuing Professional Development (CPD) programme, thereby setting the stage for continuous training for all registered personsAn accomplished professional must possess good communication and interpersonal skills, over and above the knowledge of the relevant profession. Even though the relevant qualifications are a prerequisite for registration as a professional, the importance of these soft skills can never be understated.There is no school for professionalism, it is achieved through long-term on-going development. And finally, there are no technological answers for ethical questions.Being professional is more about ethics than being good with technology.

Paul Marshall,Plato. (2011, June 20). Professionalism and professional ethics. ee publisher, p. 2.
SAGC. (2017). South African Geomatics Council. Retrieved February 25, 2018, from South African Geomatics Council:
Siyabonga Khanyeza. (2015, July 14). Professionalism in Geomatics. EE publishers, p. 2.
Surveyor, L. (2012, December 20). Alexander City Land Surveying. Retrieved February 27, 2018, from Alexandra city:

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