Encouraging Events, Disturbing Developments…
By GHK Lall
Kaieteur News – After some had taken a beating, engineers came into their own last week. It is encouraged to read of them, none particularly negative, in a few areas of Guyanese life. Amid the countless disturbing things in this country, engineers looked good, which emphasised the crucial role(s) they have to play, if we are to get financial justice, project integrity, progress.
First, there was the bizarre story involving a state-of-the-art abattoir in Region Five. It was bizarre because the single bid received was reported to be some $200 million over (yes, over) the engineer’s estimate. Because meat was involved, I thought that this sounded like blood money, like readying to make mince meat out of Guyanese, and a financial killing using beef and pork for covers. As much as I tried, I couldn’t shake the sense that this is more than where is the beef (juice); it is of good ole pork barrel politics, broadly defined, where this project is concerned. Give the people a little something, and politicians and friends get the rest for themselves. I mean this engineer can’t be so challenged that he is $200 million under a reasonable estimate, regarding what it would take to get all those clever political buzzwords – ISO, international stands, and modern – fulfilled or that the consortium bidding for the contract has an engineering team that is so skilled and competent at the sum of the requirements for an abattoir that it makes the engineer giving that lesser by $200 million estimate look like a complete dunce. To make my position clear, I don’t think he is that bad, if at all. It would interest me on how others figure this out.
Second, the big engineering chaps also put in their two cents last week. It was a warning: “Don’t rush through planning of mega-projects -Engineers’ Association” (KN June 15). I think that is sound advice that should be heeded by our leaders. They themselves have admitted that we lack capacity in crucial areas (audit, oil management, and so forth), so it is the most beneficial step to plan carefully, as our Engineers’ Association cautioned, which means going slowly. When we proceed like this, project missteps and cost overruns are minimised, if not eliminated altogether. This is sensible, and I am glad that the engineers offered their counsel. Looking at ourselves honestly, we lack quality people in many spaces. For our own constitution and cases before the CCJ, we have to recruit outside legal luminaries; auditors, we didn’t have, then with the wave of a leader’s stick, we found them. Just like that. I think that the Engineers Association did this country a big favour by saying without saying, these mega-projects costing billions in Yankee money require the kind of leadership oversight that reeks of sound judgment, which protects our prospects, and aids our nation. Do I see this PPP Government listening or giving a damn? Hell, no! It is full speed ahead, and those standing in the way of the rich pickings had better get out of the way.
Last, engineers were in the spotlight again, and this time before the Hon. Prime Minister, Mark Phillips. The Mayor and City Council (M&CC) are besieged and under constant hostilities from the PPP Government, and the latest salvo from the latter came in the form of a carefully plotted Local Government Commission (LGC). This only adds to the uphill tasks of the M&CC, which has its hands full with buildings being erected all over the city and by anybody who feels it necessary to do so. Bylaws, ancient and limited, are evaded or ignored outright. The City Engineer’s Department, itself a bone in the throat with its head at loggerheads with the Mayor’s office, is routinely bypassed by those building. It is as if the M&CC does not exist, with citizens intent on building flouting the bylaws and flouncing their connections. The Mayor took a stand and the PPP Government declared war against a PNC upstart. Meanwhile, City Engineer’s Department and engineering standards go by the wayside. Is this a country, or what? Is there any law here or people with regard for the law?
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.)
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