STAND UP ENGINEERS AND BE COUNTED! (Part 2)

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In the first part of his article in the previous issue, Professor Jackson Mwaka- li, an authority in civil engineering and current Resident Engineer for the construction of the ultra-modern New Nile Bridge at Jinja, makes the for- midable thesis that no nation ever became a developed country without putting up a good infrastructure first – the prerequisite for economic and overall national development. Having debunked what he calls ‘myths’ and wishful thinking about development, he now proposes the way forward – beginning with a paradigm shift among all stakeholders, especially the en- gineers. This is the last part of his article. Find the first part in Volume 3 Issue 2, January/February 2018 on www.8mconstruction.com.

Pathways to sustainable infrastructure development: The need for a paradigm shift

Infrastructure should be equitable, efficient, safe and green in order for it to result in a holistic development of the country. For sustainability, local challenges need local solutions (in terms of the 3Ms – money, manpower and methods).

Money

Borrow less. Use as much own money as possible. Better to budget according to what we have than what others might give us. Let’s cut our coat according to our cloth! I find the donors conferences to be demeaning to our country. It makes no economic or political sense to surrender our economic and political sovereignty through uncontrolled borrowing to even build markets, school classroom blocks, city roads, district roads, and such small affordable infrastructures.

If you must borrow, don’t borrow just to maintain the status quo but to a tune that will enable you invest so heavily as to enable you take off to another level of development in one generation. Consider how the widening of the Kampala-Entebbe Highway was messed up in the mid-1990s, or the messed and phased construction of the Northern Bypass.

When you borrow, use your sovereignty to leverage the rules of the game, such as the amount of local content, the need for skills transfer, etc. It is doable and the lenders know it and respect it.

Manpower

Rome was built by the Romans, and it wasn’t built in one day. Only Ugandans can build the country’s infrastructure, but they will not do it in one day.

Engineers have the indispensable role in infrastructure development. The world, including Uganda, has been made to believe that medicine and doctors are responsible for the improved standard of living and life expectancy in modern

civilizations. Nothing can be further from the truth. Doctors don’t treat healthy people. They address symptoms of things gone wrong. It is much better to prevent people from falling sick in the first place.

The improved longevity of human life has been due to

improvements in environmental and social hygiene brought about by engineers. Is it not engineers who make all medical drugs and gadgets? Is it not engineers who produce clean water for domestic and industrial use? Is it not engineers

who make safe and clean buildings, roads, bridges, cars, aeroplanes, energy systems, and food? Is it not engineers who make clothing, telephones, computers, fridges, paper, furniture, etc? It is not far-fetched to claim that it is in fact engineers who make everything tangible, including infrastructure!

Ugandan leadership and society must learn to recognise that without their own engineers the country’s aspirations towards a modern middle-income economy may remain a distant dream.

It is no point maligning engineers as corrupt and responsible for poorly executed infrastructural developments when we all know that the problem is elsewhere and much bigger than the engineers. Isn’t it self-defeating for the Ugandan taxpayer to expensively train an engineer and then let him/her run and work to benefit other countries? I call this ‘capacity unbuilding’.

Ugandan engineers must, as a matter of urgency, reclaim their professional autonomy. For all matters engineering, the Number One stakeholder is the engineering fraternity. This means, among other things, that we should set the rules of engineering procurements. In the UK, the Institution of Civil Engineers, as an example, is effectively part of the establishment – Address: One George Street, Westminster opposite the Treasury Office. They provide legal support to their members. They produce construction industry publications, including guidelines, manuals, standards, and type contracts. For example, their NEC contracts for buying a diverse range of works, services and supply that clearly defined project management principles and practices, and legal relationships, are the only contracts endorsed by their equivalent of our PPDA).

On this note, I am requesting UIPE to work with UNBS which is about to release standards on construction procurement. These are a set of eight ISO standards that cover types of tenders, conditions of tender, EOIs, JV contracts, local contracting, labour contracts, etc. If we engineers don’t take charge of this process we will soon wake up to laws and regulations that sideline us, especially in the Oil and Gas sector.

Methods

Leapfrogging – where certain steps are skipped – may work in employment promotions (e.g. from trainee engineer to senior engineer, or from lecturer to associate professor, or from a

 

The Kabale-Kisoro road could have been done entirely by Ugandans

8M Photo December 2017

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