Columnists

Engineers vital in construction projects

VIOLET MENGO

Analysis: VIOLET MENGO
RECENTLY, President Edgar Lungu said the Engineering Institution of Zambia (EIZ) is aloof and has failed to provide expert advice to Government on ongoing construction projects.
This followed the President’s discovery that the construction of Kenneth Kaunda International Airport had some omission of cold rooms in the design.
The concern by the Head of State is justifiable as it has always been a wonder what role EIZ plays in relation to national construction projects taking place.
Many times, the media brings to the fore the engineering errors in construction projects taking place that could have been avoided if an expert was present to give guidance.
Oftentimes I have interacted with some members of EIZ whose works I admire so much. Through them, I have learnt quite a lot about the organisation and profession in general.
It is important to understand what the Engineering Institution of Zambia is before looking at what they have or have not done to enhance growth of this country.
EIZ is a statutory professional regulatory body mandated by the EIZ Act No. 17 of 2010 to promote and regulate the engineering profession in Zambia.
Its mandate is to advise Government on matters relating to the engineering profession and to investigate and monitor national emergencies of public concern on engineering products or services and recommend appropriate preventive and rehabilitative measures.
According to the Act, the institution promotes the general advancement of the engineering and allied disciplines.
It also maintains and improves the standards of conduct and learning of engineering and allied professions in Zambia.
Above all, EIZ is responsible for raising the character and status of the engineering profession and allied disciplines by promoting honourable and good practice. This is with a view to increasing community confidence in those practising engineering and allied disciplines.
These are some of the functions of the EIZ as stipulated in the Act. The Act guides what the engineers do on behalf of Government.
The work of engineers as regards investment projects taking place countrywide has not been visible, hence the call by President Lungu for the institution to ‘pull up its socks’ and make its presence visible.
Ordinarily, the responsibilities to analyse, design, and implement engineering projects rest on EIZ and its members.
It is also the responsibility of engineering professionals to research, innovate, design, construct, repair and maintain infrastructure.
At engineering institutions such as the University of Zambia (UNZA), students are prepared for the field in the above-mentioned areas.
There are various stages of a project cycle and at every stage an engineer is involved. This shows the importance of engineering in the construction sector.
It is the duty of engineering experts to ensure that the outcome of a particular project is what was intended at the initial stage. It is therefore important that engineering experts play their role in construction processes in all sectors – mining, energy, water and sanitation, transport, engineering education and agricultural engineering.
According to the EIZ, there are several stages involved in a project cycle. These are project initiation, project planning and execution, monitoring, controls and project closure.
At every stage of a given project cycle engineers are expected to assess and give input and advise Government accordingly.
However, since there has been minimal expert advice to Government in most projects, there is certainly need for EIZ to up their game.
In other words, the engineers are not doing enough in their professional interaction with the Government resulting in some projects not meeting required standards.
According to EIZ president Sydney Matamwandi, those implementing projects are sometimes fast and certain things may not be availed to the institution, hence it becomes difficult for EIZ to play an active advisory role.
“The omission in the design of the cold room at the Kenneth Kaunda International Airport, for example, is news to the institution,” he said.
The institution says it was not aware about the design of the project, but an engineer who is their member is part of the project.
This is not the only project that has caught the institution by surprise; the infrastructural problem at Kawambwa Barracks is also something that caught the institution by surprise.
If the country is to experience sanity in the construction sector, EIZ should take its rightful position and consistently follow up on all construction works taking place in the country.
The institution should take interest to know, for example, what is happening in a particular project starting from the price, design and quality of the project.
The President’s concern should be taken as a directive by EIZ to up its game in providing expert advice on all construction projects.
This is the only way to ensure quality infrastructure that will stand the taste of time.
The author is a Zambia Daily Mail senior reporter.

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