Editor's Comment

Experts must speak out

FINALLY, the cat seems to be getting out of the bag. So it is not just individual engineers, but the nation, too, wondering what the Engineering Institute of Zambia (EIZ) is doing.
With the country undergoing transformation in terms of infrastructure, engineers should have been very prominent.
Government, the private sector and individuals need the advice of engineers at various levels of the country’s development.
However, when the country needs the voice of engineers at a critical time such as this, they have suddenly hibernated.
The nation expects to see engineers traversing the length and breadth of the country checking on the projects – planned, on-going and completed – and offering their opinion.
There have reportedly been cases of construction projects progressing with compromised standards and yet the sites have engineers, or are supposed to have these experts at hand.
Even from a layman’s view, some buildings are evidently substandard yet the voice of the experts is generally silent.
The nation, too, expected that the school of engineering at the University of Zambia (UNZA) and Copperbelt University (CBU) should have been busy advocating for student placements at most of the high-profile projects to facilitate skills transfer.
To their credit, the EIZ has mentorship programmes for young engineers. This is good, but it must reflect on the quality of projects.
Beyond that, UNZA and CBU in conjunction with EIZ should have been lobbying for some projects from Government, which they have been doing for practical experience as well as fundraising.
The active participation by engineers through the EIZ, CBU and UNZA was probably going to help cut down on some of the expenses Government is incurring with some contractors who abandon projects or perform shoddy works.
That is why President Edgar Lungu has aptly observed that some professional organisations such as the EIZ have let down Government by failing to provide expert advice.
President Lungu has said the lack of participation in national matters by some professional bodies has cost the country resources.
There are situations which local engineers can handle better. But presently Zambia’s engineers are conspicuously quiet. If they are working quietly, that is well and good, but it would be definitely better if their voice were loud on all matters woven around their areas of expertise.
As it were, EIZ looks like a dormant institution for most of the year. EIZ, some members says, is active only when it comes to reminding members about paying fees.
Some members say that if EIZ was as consistent as it is in reminding its members when fees are due for registration, it should have been the best regulatory institute.
That is why some members think EIZ is more into raising funds.
The Ministry of Housing and Infrastructure and private sector players needing the right professional engineers should engage EIZ more to ensure that these experts live up to their well spelt-out vision and mission.
EIZ’s mission is ‘To be a world-class professional institution that promotes best engineering practices and technological innovations’.
Its mission statement is: ‘To promote professional development; regulate training, practice and conduct of engineering and applied science, so as to enhance national productivity, improve quality of life and protect the environment for the benefit of society’.
Clearly, they have a critical role to play in national development.
Therefore, President Lungu’s calling out engineers has come at a very crucial time.
As engineers through EIZ reflect on their noble profession, experts in other sectors should seat up and do what is expected of them.
Their deeds and voices must be seen and heard on the various national discussions. The country is well endowed with experts who should be feeding the nation with information that is best for the country.
Often the voices that are heard are from the same group of ‘experts’ who have become jacks of all trades, but in reality experts in none.
These are ‘experts’ who will want to sound knowledgeable on all matters, even arguing against experts, especially those that are aloof.
There is no harm in commenting on matters that one may not be an expert in, but the professionals in the respective sectors must be listened to and their voices respected.
This is a clarion call to all professional bodies to have an introspection into how they are helping this country. Being aloof should never be their way of helping the country.

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