Editor's Comment

Engineers must prove worth

THERE is nothing as frustrating to citizens as hearing reports of road contractors abandoning projects or doing sub-standard works.
People want to see such projects delivered to their expectations because most of the time their demands for development take long to be fulfilled due to other competing needs.
Contractors and engineers at large owe it to Zambian people to deliver works that meet the expected standards and are durable.
Government, which offers such contracts, cannot be responsible for shoddy works, but engineers who provide the oversight role on construction of public infrastructure have the power not to certify sub-standard jobs.
Minister of Infrastructure, Housing and Urban Development Charles Milupi is justified to feel let down by engineers for certifying sub-standard works.
This negligent behaviour by engineers (of course not all of them) has given most contractors in the country freedom to do shoddy works and afterwards enjoy the money paid by Government.
As a matter of fact, some of the contractors do not see doing jobs or abandoning works after being paid as a crime. If anything, they consider it a habit they should follow to maximise on their profits without being questioned.
Government spends a lot of money on infrastructure in its quest to improve people’s lives.
The conduct of some contractors and the negligence of engineers have the potential to frustrate Government’s efforts to take development to all parts of the country.
It shouldn’t take a government official like the minister has done to discover that some works are sub-standard.
We understand that most of the jobs are given to foreign contractors on assumption that they are in Grade A category going by the contract value.
But in some cases some of the works are sub-contracted to local contractors who assume works above their grade limitations.
Such situations require close monitoring by engineers to ensure honesty in service delivery.
Engineers should take up the challenge to ensure that works carried out by construction companies are up to the required standard.
Institutions like Engineering Institute of Zambia (ZIA), Zambia Institute of Architects and National Council for Construction (NCC) must take a front seat in so far as supervision of these projects is concerned.
Examples abound of road works that have been done three years ago and are already damaged. This is tantamount to short-changing Government and citizens at large.
We call upon contractors to be sincere in their operations and deliver quality works according to agreements with Government.
They should not betray the trust Government has on them but endeavour to put the interest of people, who are going to use the product, first.
Sub-standard public infrastructure also poses a danger to people who use them.
This is not the first time a politician is raising concern on the sub-standard works which are certified by engineers.
Engineers must make sure that roads in all parts of the country are durable because it is not always that Government finds money to maintain them every year.
The Sesheke-Livingstone road, which the minister made reference to, is one case which requires closer supervision by engineers.
The most common demands for development among rural residents are woven around road construction and rehabilitation.  This is because roads are key to growing other sectors of the economy apart from being arteries for distribution of goods and services to markets.
Engineers must ride on the goodwill of the new administration to follow through works that are done by both foreign contractors and local contractors.
They should not raise alarm only after works are done but while construction is still under way.
Sustainable development must be built on a strong foundation.

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