George building collapse: Engineer placed on precautionary suspension

Investigations into the George building collapse are still under way.

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News 24

  • The Engineering Council of South Africa has imposed a precautionary suspension on the engineer overseeing the construction of the George building that collapsed, killing 34 people.
  • While the engineering council did not name the person, it did name the company as Mitchell & Associates, which is run by engineer Atholl Mitchell.
  • The council asked for a comprehensive list of all their engineering-related undertakings, projects, and services.

The Engineering Council of South Africa (ECSA) has imposed a precautionary suspension on the consulting engineer who was overseeing the construction of the apartment block in George that collapsed more than a month ago, killing 34 people.

In a statement on Tuesday, ECSA said the decision was taken as a preventive measure, to protect any potential and/or actual prejudice to public health and safety as a result of engineering-related undertakings.

This comes after recommendations of the report were tabled at a council meeting held this month.

"The precautionary suspension is not a disciplinary action, but a temporary removal of and/or restriction on all of the registered person's rights, privileges, and/or activities associated with professional registration with the ECSA," said the statement.

"Council will maintain this suspension until a decision is made regarding the potential charges against the Registered Person and/or the finalisation of any subsequent disciplinary action or appeal.

While the engineering council did not name the person it was placing on precautionary suspension, it did name the company, Mitchell & Associates.

Mitchell & Associates was named as the structural and civil engineer for the George building site by developers Neo Victoria Developments in early May, a few days after the deadly collapse.

Mitchell & Associates is run by engineer Atholl Mitchell, a registered professional engineering technologist.

George Municipality later confirmed that Mitchell was the site engineer when it told the media he had declared he had the necessary qualifications, experience, and contextual knowledge to undertake the work proposed.

The council said that in addition to the suspension, in accordance with section 14 of the act, it would request the registered person and/or other identified stakeholders to provide, within seven calendar days from the date of the request, a comprehensive list of all engineering-related undertakings, projects, and services rendered by the registered person in both personal and professional capacities, whether trading under the name and style of Mitchell & Associates or otherwise.

"At a minimum, the draft design and as-built drawings of the projects must be provided," the statement read.

"Within three weeks thereafter, the contractor or accountable party for the project is required to provide an independent engineer's report concerning the structural integrity of the structure. This report must be compiled by a Registered Person, specifically a structural engineer, with no less than 10 years of experience who has actively practised in the field of structural engineering and who is/was not involved as a project team member."

It said the report should address the structural assessment and structural integrity of the engineering-related undertakings with the scope of the request, including current and past projects dating back three years from the date of this resolution. 

"Subsequent to receipt of these reports, a panel of ECSA-appointed investigators will review the reports and prepare a report with findings, focusing on structural integrity, for presentation to the investigating committee."

The investigating committee will then consider these findings and recommend any necessary steps to the council concerning the powers and/or duties of the council as outlined in the act.

Last month, News24 reported that Mitchell was under investigation by the ECSA at the time of the deadly incident for two separate matters.

The ECSA's investigating committee in February recommended that Mitchell be charged with various breaches of the ECSA's code of conduct after a complaint was lodged in December last year.

No specifics were provided the complaint, who lodged it, or whether it was related to the George development.

The other complaint was laid against Mitchell in 2020 relating to a project he was supervising in 2018 and 2019, but the investigating committee determined there was insufficient evidence to suggest a transgression of the ESCA's code of conduct.

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