The Role of Engineers in Propagating Corruption in Kenya

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Mr. Edgar Makale

Disclaimer: This article is written without bias or reference to any particular individual. It’s a reflection of what has been observed from different counties toured and worked in Kenya. Its written from personal experience and interaction of like-minded people in the same field.

For any third world country to develop infrastructure is key aspect in propelling the latter. Any developed country is basically judged on the GDP and this goes hand in hand with the infrastructure in the said country. Infrastructure is defined as the basic physical and organizational structures and facilities. In referring to infrastructure we narrow down to basic physical systems of business i.e. transportation, sewage, water supply and treatment, waste management and electric system roads, buildings, bridges, landscaping, electrical transmission components. Infrastructure is fundamental for function of economy of any country whether developed or undeveloped. Show me a country that is developed without proper infrastructure?

An Engineer on the other side is defined as a person who uses scientific knowledge to design, construct and maintain engines, machines and structures such as roads, buildings, railways, bridges etc.  some various of Engineering field include Civil, Mechanical, Electrical, Surveyors, Agricultural etc.

Kenya is one of the most rapidly growing countries in Africa and World. This is because she wants to be at another height in 2030. One of the steps towards achieving the latter was to devolve services through constitution in 2013. This has seen various counties investing so much in infrastructure in bid to improve services to the people at grassroots level. Previously all services were centralized and as a result one had to be in good books with the ruling party to enjoy the goodies from the National government. Currently all counties are allocated monies based on population and other factors for development. Equalization fund was introduced to counties based in hardship areas to balance development. A county such as Kakamega, Machakos and Makueni have really improved in infrastructure development i.e. Good roads, modern hospital buildings, modern sporting arena, emerging factories, street lighting, proper drainage and sewer system, modern market structures and modern school buildings.

Engineers are tasked with doing preliminary survey and coming up with feasibility studies based on the prices of items on the ground, availability of local materials, type of soils, transport costs of material, availability of electricity, demographic distribution, availability portable of water, main economic activity of given area, accessibility, road network and finally value for money. From all these factors an Engineer is able to come up with prices of each item e.g. mobilization, site clearance, excavation concrete works, blocks, roofing, design of given infrastructure, design life of infrastructure just to name but a few. All these depict an Engineer as a core component in the conceiving and materialization of any infrastructure. This is why when any infrastructure fails Engineers will always be taken responsible.

In the recent past a lot of substandard works have mushroomed and exorbitant prices experienced in all the 47 counties in Kenya. This means that the design life for the various works being carried out are short lived, for instance buildings designed to last 25 years might only last half their life span. What this means in essence that after 10years we are going to have to repeat a lot of works meant to last at least 25 years while the investment quoted was meant to last 25 years.

Engineers being the core personnel in development of infrastructure they have to supervise and give approval from inception construction, commissioning to end of the project.  What is happening is that Engineers are making approvals of substandard infrastructure endangering lives of innocent citizens. For instance, approving depths less than those on drawings, spefications and Bill of Quantities, allowing and approving use of inferior materials against what was stated in the Bill of quantities and drawing the list is endless. This is because there is exchange of money involved at field level/site. The Engineers over quote and follow the contractors to be given the excesses. Why should a standard simple wheel burrow cost more than 1000USD and it’s not motorized, why should a simple foot bridge spanning less than 10Metres built out of very simple material cost 6500USD the list is endless. These is because the CORE technical personnel or project Architects who are Engineers in this case work in cohorts with personnel from other fields such as Procurement and finance but Engineers surely have the blue prints and the actual values of items on the ground. One very surprising aspect of all these is the cost of items such as concrete is always quoted as the same starting from Turkana to Busia. Surprisingly some of these counties are very rich in local materials such as sand, cement, ballast meaning the rates are supposed to vary. Engineers are well aware of these facts but because they also want to harvest large they let contractors use higher rates irrespective of the latter and later on coheres contractors in submitting to them the excesses.

Engineers should be professional in undertaking their duties like Doctors, Architects and Pilots as these infrastructure forms lifeline to innocent civilians. They should work towards achieving the Vision 2030 dreams by approving quality infrastructures and saving the countries by giving reasonable rates. When it comes to corruption matters a policeman with basic skills in criminology cannot comprehensively investigate a corrupt Engineer, the Engineer in question will always outsmart the investigating agencies because he can fabricate facts, Engineers can only be investigated by Engineers.  Whatever is being observed in terms of workmanship and pricing in counties is so sorry and appalling. Engineers have become so corrupt they do not care who dies as a result of their action as long they have their cut. Engineers should try hard to regain their integrity otherwise the counties will lose a lot making it hard to achieve status of developed country.  Going forward statutory bodies tasked in regulating engineering and construction industry should stamp their authority by barring all Engineers who have approved and commissioned substandard works just the way other professional bodies do. This should be swift followed by public notice on the local dailies and online. The said bodies should provide hotlines or interactive platform with the general public which allows sharing of pictures of substandard works and location of the works and if possible the Engineer and contractor responsible. Engineers Board should have Engineers log book similar to filing returns where Engineers record the projects they are undertaking quarterly (every three months) which should have; the client name and contacts, GPS coordinates or location, supervising authority value of the project, duration planned and actual end dates, challenges, few pictures of the works and the contractor undertaking the works. If the Engineer is found culpable of wrong doing both the Engineer and the contractor should be suspended or equally punished. By doing this it’s even easier to check the Engineering portal the works of various Engineers and easily track done on the rogue ones incase disaster happens door to poor workmanship or Engineers/Contractors negligence. All this information should be available to the public the same way checking registered Engineers is done on Engineers portals. we follow this route we shall for once start seeing quality construction works in counties, long infrastructure lifespan and value for money.

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