Editor's Comment

Engineers must prove their worth


ENGINEERS are critical to Zambia’s socio-economic development.
Engineers’ expertise include the provision of basic necessities such as water, electricity, communication, roads and housing infrastructure.
With Government prioritising capital projects as a way of enhancing service delivery and creating jobs, engineers have a major role to play in actualising this goal.
But with some structures being poorly built, some roads falling short of specifications of Government or local authorities, it is evident that there is a big gap that must be filled. This must be done quickly.
Zambia cannot afford to allow the loss of public resources in such an avoidable manner.
Engineers are expected to take a leading role in ensuring that jobs are executed efficiently and are cost-effective.
Apart from Government-contracted projects, there are other construction projects which should have more local engineers involved in.
We know that most local authorities have well qualified and capable engineers, but for some reason, towns and cities continue having substandard infrastructure.
We wonder which engineers would be proud of some of the buildings or works done under their noses. If they say that they have nothing to do with some of these substandard buildings, then why do the local authorities allow occupation or use?
We are also aware that some of these engineers could be frustrated by respective managements of local authorities in that their expert advice is not heeded.
If this is the case, the engineers should not give up. They should soldier on and be proud of their profession. But they can only be proud if they deliver on expectations of users.
In construction, we expect engineers to be constantly on the ground monitoring and supervising projects.
The expertise of architects should be taken a level higher as the thoughts on paper are actualised.
Often, construction, especially of private structures, is left to bricklayers, many of whom do not even have the qualifications but do “good jobs” through experience.
Buildings are occupied without clearance certificates from local authorities who should be guided accordingly by the engineers.
Some buildings seem good and solid by appearance soon after completion, but after a few months, cracks begin to appear and in adverse weather such as rainstorms, roofs get blown away.
Admittedly, even the strongest of certified bridges and houses can collapse in storms, but the risks are certainly higher if the construction was poorly done in the first place.
The devastating rainstorms that destroyed bridges and houses in some northern parts of Zambia were a reminder to engineers to step up their involvement in matters of construction.
They saw how some of those crossing points gave way in the storms. Lessons learnt should provide for stronger bridges and other buildings.
While appreciating that most local authorities’ engineering departments are overstretched, the least they can do is to accredit the bricklayers, plumbers, electricians and carpenters so that individuals and companies in need are not taken advantage of by quacks.
President Edgar Lungu has reiterated his concern with engineers because of project costs being escalated through systematic variations.
Mr Lungu said the trend, if left unchecked, can erode the achievements made so far.
Engineers know the procedure as far as executing of projects is concerned. Before the commencement of any projects, they have to factor in all the costs to avoid a situation where clients, especially Government, start paying more than they had budgeted for.
This has led to some citizens accusing Government of inflating the costs of projects when this is advice of the expert engineers.
For road projects, the Road Development Agency has engineers who are mandated to monitor road construction at every stage.
When engineers adhere to their job descriptions, complaints about the unethical behaviour President Lungu spoke about should not arise.
However, some people are not doing their job and the country is getting shoddy works, which a huge cost to the tax-payers.
We expect the leadership of Engineering Institute of Zambia to take responsibility in ensuring that standards and codes of ethics are strictly adhered to.
This will significantly assist all practitioners in complying with applicable laws, rules and regulations within the sector.
Engineers should redeem themselves by ensuring that their members live up to the expectations of stakeholders.
EIZ should stand up and account for their expertise. It is important, too, that they be allowed to do their job professionally.

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