Mar 07, 2016 News
The new administration will be seeking to create a culture of accountability and transparency when it comes to Guyana’s engineers. According to Minister of Public Infrastructure, David Patterson, proposals have already been accepted from various stakeholders regarding the improvement of the old legislation governing the work of engineers.
He said that it is about time that engineers are held accountable for the work they are doing and face stiff penalties for slapdash work.
The Minister said that the shoddy work which was once accepted in the past by engineers will not be encouraged under his watch.
Patterson said that he has received submissions from the Guyana Association of Professional Engineers (GAPE) and emphasized that he is determined to return a sense of transparency to the field.
GAPE President Joel Trotman said that the organization has been at the forefront of the call to have the revised Guyana Engineers Act of 1999 see smooth passage in the National Assembly, but to his dismay, the organization’s call has fallen on deaf ears for several years.
“We have been pushing for some time to get a Bill passed in Parliament. The push for this Bill is hinged primarily on the fact that it is of absolute importance to the engineering profession. The legislation is critical, as it would help to settle the never-ending argument as to who really qualifies to be an engineer in Guyana. We have no statute that sets out properly, the standards required by these professionals.”
The GAPE President asserted that the Act is also needed to regulate the behaviour and services carried out by the engineers. In so doing, it would help to clearly identify persons who are involved in malpractice and the necessary action can be taken.
Trotman stressed that the need for the Act and the purpose it would serve as something that is “being kept on the back burner for too long.”
But considering the aforementioned, Trotman also highlighted another important dimension of the equation.
“The coming into being of the Caricom Single Market and Economy has lead to the harmonization of professionals across the Caribbean states. And of course, if we have our professional engineers going to Trinidad or Barbados, then they will have to fit the standards set out by the statutes in those territories. And Guyana must appreciate that in such a situation, reciprocity of standards must exist. I say all of this to simply explain that Guyana will be exchanging with the Region, a number of our professionals, and when these people come to our country, we need to have a proper legislation that sets out a standard for them to use as their torchlight during their practice. The Act in this sense can also serve as paramount in the evaluation process of these people. We need to have an Act that can set the proper protocol and standards. Without an Act, we will only leave the profession exposed to intolerable levels of malpractice and misconduct… and that already exists.”
Trotman added, “Taking these salient points into consideration, the GAPE has met constantly to discuss these issues and how it has a bearing on not only the country, but also our relationship with our regional neighbours.”
Trotman, a certified Land Surveyor, expressed that those who may be clinging to the misguided perception that, “Oh, we have an Engineering Association so we don’t need anything else,” may certainly have to re-evaluate their logic.
“Yes, we have an association and so forth, but because it is a small body, and without the Act, it creates openings for there to be a shifting of the goal post. It is also for this reason other members and I have been lobbying for the Bill which has been revised since 1999. Once we have the Act, professionals will know that there is a statute to obey.”
He added that when one also takes into account the proliferation of engineers coming into the country and the influx of investors it brings with it, it becomes more critical for there to be proper legislation.
“It’s not the quality of engineers that I am hitting. People do what they have to, I am sure with the best of intentions, but there is a most serious need to get oversight laws to govern the practice of engineers and architects. Government has been saying for some time that they will deal with it and they haven’t.”
He added, “We have an influx of investors and if you don’t set standards then you will see yourself getting all sorts of things, and that has already started. For expediency, government doesn’t like to deal with regulations. It’s too much work to verify that certain systems have to be in place. But if a foreign company comes to Guyana, or if a lawyer comes to Guyana, in order to practice or get started, they would have to satisfy certain regulations and provide their credentials, and we have seen this happen on several occasions. So I ask, what are we really trying to tell professional engineers in and out of Guyana, if we continue along this path? I don’t intend to come over as though I am bashing anyone, for that is not the focus; the focus is the longer we delay, the more complications we will have coming our way.”
With that in mind, Trotman and other engineers are urging members of the political opposition and the government to take a hands-on approach towards getting the problem fixed once and for all.
“It would only be in the best interest of the country,” Trotman asserted.
When he served in the political opposition shadowing the area of infrastructure, Joseph Harmon, who is now the Minister of State had vowed to look into the matter and have it brought before the Tenth Parliament but this has not yet occurred.
Harmon in an invited comment had expressed that the piece of legislation is of paramount importance, especially when one takes into account the amount of engineers and investors that are coming into the country.
“With this phenomenon taking place it becomes even more important to have the legislation in place. This will most certainly allow for there to be a code of ethics which will regulate the manner in which our engineers operate and even the ones coming to work in our country.”
The Member of Parliament lamented that he has publicly spoken on the fact that “some engineers” appear to be doing jobs in Guyana of which they are not that knowledgeable.
“I have even called for there to be a national engineer’s discourse during my speech in 2012 when the budget was being debated. The dialogue was geared towards getting the engineers on board and having them talk about issues affecting the improvement of the profession in Guyana. We need to have this sort of discourse.”
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