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Defining the role of the independent Environmental Control Officer (ECO) in compliance monitoring and enforcement

Wessels, J-A and Morrison-Saunders, A. (2012) Defining the role of the independent Environmental Control Officer (ECO) in compliance monitoring and enforcement. South African Journal of Environmental Law and Policy, 18 (1). pp. 27-48.

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Currently an entire unregulated industry of Environmental Control Officers (ECOs) is active at various construction sites across South Africa. While the expected role of ECOs is generally to ensure that environmental authorisation (EA) conditions are implemented and monitored, differing views on the role and independence of the industry still exist between practitioners. This paper presents quantitative and qualitative response results from a questionnaire survey of 50 South African environmental practitioners on the role and independence of the ECO industry with an emphasis on practitioner comments reproduced in their own words and ‘voice’. The practitioners identified: compliance monitoring; implementation and enforcement; ensuring legal compliance; advising and/or consulting; communicating; reporting; and raisings awareness as the key roles of an ECO. It was also noted that competency and independence of an ECO should be consistently reflected in EA and EMP requirements to avoid confusion on these issues in practice. They also identified competence and the regulation thereof, as well as support from developers, government, and other role-players as core needs of the industry to successfully fulfil their roles. Furthermore, independence to all role-players was held in high regard and they had a cautionary message to avoid obsessing the independence issue to such an extent that it compromises the ability to fulfil their roles. In order to streamline future practices and to provide some consensus, this paper concludes with a proposed definition for the role of an independent ECO by drawing together the views presented by the practitioners.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Environmental Science
Publisher: School of Law, University of Natal
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