IEK election 2018 Free and Fair
I would like to pass my congratulations and best wishes to the new team especially the incoming president Eng. Collins Juma. There is a backlog of issues that have remained un-tackled, unaddressed or inadequately addressed/tackled. In two years’ time, depending on the outcome, the new team is likely to face some questions if they do not address the key issues or make significant progress on them. I am sure the president and his council are acutely aware of this and with the support of members will put up systems in place and give directions to be able to achieve the vision. The new team is capable of delivering on their promises. To start with we urgently need a strategic plan, policies in place as well as a review of the IEK constitution starting with its objectives.
It has been several years of clamoring for change. The last two have been more action oriented including the court cases of 2016 where a few of us went to the judiciary to challenge the results of the elections held in 2016. This clamour has had a large bearing in ensuring that the IEK elections 2018 are not only held using electronic voting but are also fair. The clamour has also created more interest by members to actively participate in the elections as well as ensuring that the elections were largely free and fair.
One of the publicity and advocacy tools that have been at the forefront to pushing this IEK transformation agenda is the Kenya Engineer Magazine; it continues to reflect the aspirations and the diverse opinion of engineers. I know that with the new council and the continuous reforms taking place in our institution we can only do more and better. It’s a big legacy not just for Institution but for the late Eng. McCorkindale who kept it going for many years.
We have also done mobilization on alternative and mainstream media. Social media has played a critical role in terms of awakening the consciousness of the engineers to the extent that we have seen much more participation in the affairs of the institution.
My candidature was always about the plight of the young engineers, especially those from poor backgrounds with literally no one to hold their hands, they literally have nothing other than the knowledge and with the job situation in this country they need hope and a responsive institution. I also ran on the platform for change geared towards uplifting the plight of the Engineer
The election of 2018 was not devoid of controversies, the election panel disqualified six of us on varied grounds that took us by surprise. However, that did not deter us from actively participating in the elections and ensuring they were free and fair.
Many engineers were advocating for transparency and a fair electoral system. This agitation led to the electronic voting that we saw including the special general meeting held early this year. That SGM was crucial and passed very many critical resolutions that had a direct bearing on the way that election were conducted. What engineers were doing is bringing change. It is worth mentioning that it was not about bringing individuals; but transforming the Institution from within.
IEK needs inclusivity and participation from all levels of engineers, collective decision making and free flow feedback from members. Engineers must feel they belong. Engineers must feel that they are getting value.
The rest of us can still serve the profession in other bodies like I have just taken over as the Chairman of the Executive Committee of GAMA (Group of African Member Associations) which is for the Consulting Engineers in Africa. I am also very much updated at KEPSA – Kenya Private Sector Alliance where I serve as the chair of the Energy and Extractives Board. KEPSA a very robust, very strong lobby and advocacy platform. IEK is a member of KEPSA. KEPSA is very engaged, current and well-funded. You cannot run advocacy and lobbying if you are not funded and well structured.
The reason why I am drawing parallels with KEPSA is because of what I ‘ve seen working. Strong advocacy, strong lobbying, high visibility culminating in them making significant gains in their agenda and participating in national conversations. It is important for the institution to be visible so as to effectively drive its agenda. To me, if you ask me, we have an institution that is recognized in this country as the voice of engineers so why not?
Are we effectively using it? I think we can do better. The issues that affect our profession in this country must have a voice to stand out. The key issues in public interest that we need to engage include failure of infrastructure, inadequate infrastructure planning in some areas, wrong designs, quacks, unethical behaviour and even corruption. We need to be there in every debate in this country as Kenyans because we are Kenyans first then engineers. We must be ready to discuss matters of constitution, development, social and economic agenda and continue to actively engage relevant government agencies, regulators, development partners, private sectors, and other stakeholders, stakeholders.
To the young engineers, I tell them they are the hope of this country. They are growing up in a new political dispensation. They are growing up to an era of openness in terms of information, and also in a time of more democratic space etc. The youths have great potential because they are not confined in their thinking. They are open to ideas, they explore and are ready to try new ways.
To the new council. We want to support them and we will keep them on their toes in a positive manner We want to encourage engineers to take an interest in IEK and to actively participate in the matters of the institution.
Advocacy, Lobbying and Publicity
IEK should be the leading voice of the engineers in the society. It is the platform to engage all stakeholders in this country on matters that affect engineers and also in the public interest.
How should we not participate in what I would call emerging issues? For example, who says that we cannot talk about interest rate capping as engineers and consulting firms? Do the rates not affect us and more so engineering related businesses? These emerging issues affect our practice/well-being yet we don’t talk about them. Engineering and construction firms need access to cheaper credit and the Institution of Engineers should have a position on all the policy matters that affect engineers and engineering related firms.
IEK is a member of the Association of Professions Society of East Africa (APSEA). APSEA is recognized by the Constitution of Kenya. So in matters of national and on cross-cutting issues we can more actively channel our voice through APSEA. Advocacy and lobbying are key elements of any association, we should not restrain ourselves to matters of engineering only, and we should always be ready to plunge into national debates and discourses.
Engineers should make their voices heard. People are complaining about Narok-Mai Mahiu road. People are complaining about cost of power, failed infrastructure in some areas, foreign competition, corruption, the list is endless. The accountants are talking about the interest caps. We need to talk about these pressing issues when they are happening and more so offer solutions (not just complain). We design these roads, we design these drainages, we design buildings, when they collapse we have to say something all geared toward trying to make sure they do not recur. We have an objective to look after public interest and that’s why we need to speak out.
The issue of infrastructure failure has to be addressed head on; it causes tremendous losses to lives and property. It’s public money going down the drain. If not, we might as well retain some of the the old infrastructure and put our money somewhere else say healthcare. The economist may explain the consequences but it takes an engineer to talk of the causes and future preventive measures.
The institution needs to be strategic in lobbying government ministries and other bodies that can avail funding for studies that can help address the challenges the construction industry and engineering profession faces. IEK should be able to commission studies to let them know where the country is. IEK can also carry out baseline studies on the engineering profession so as to clearly understand the challenges the profession is facing and also help understand the career paths taken by engineers from the university. The study can also include gathering data on all engineers including student engineers, understanding their plight and coming up with ways to improve their well-being. The outcome of the study will be useful in offering sound advice to not only government but also the private sector. We can then exchange data with engineering bodies from Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda etc. on regional projects. We should also develop the capacity to get involved in projects right from conceptualization (prefeasibility and feasibility studies) so as to give relevant inputs/advice that can add value to projects
IEK needs to develop policies and procedures for running it operations. This will help enhance integrity and also make members fully understand how it works.
Engineers need representation in parliament and IEK should be deliberate on this. We need to proactively engage Parliament on matters that are of interest to engineers. Engineers also need to lobby hard to ensure they have representation in key infrastructure bodies. In the recent past we have seen legislation being enacted for bodies where the input of engineers would add a lot of value. This include lobbying for CEO positions for some parastatals being reserved for engineers given their technical competency. There is urgent need to rethink the role of IEK not only to engineers but to this country. We need to revisit the constitution including reviewing the objectives. There is need for clarity and alignment with the times.
Engineers are the drivers of infrastructure development
The most important thing that we need in this country is infrastructure development. It’s a commendable thing that the government of the day is focusing on this. This is the impetus for economic growth, be it ports, energy, power generation, water etc. It impacts positively on the lives of Kenyans by uplifting their lives, creating jobs and wealth.
Engineers are one of the key drivers, when we look at sectors such as manufacturing, housing, energy, agriculture, water, roads, railways, ports, airports, mining, oil & gas, telecommunications etc. How ready are we as Engineers to meet the challenges in these sectors? What is the level of preparedness to take up these responsibilities? And what capacity do we have and how can we enhance it? And what technology or skills do we have to carry out these roles? What home grown solutions can we offer to make the solutions more cost effective and add more value to the country? We indeed need a critical review at our profession and ensure we align ourselves with the national agenda starting with the Big 4.
We need to do a skills-gap analysis comparing the skills we have with the skill required to drive the infrastructure agenda of the country. I do not know whether the Engineers Board of Kenya has done a skills-gap analysis. What does the industry require? What does Big 4 agenda require in terms of skills and capacity? Apart from the individual engineers, what about the related players such as consulting firms, contractors, maintenance firms, equipment vendors, equipment hiring companies, maintenance companies etc. How ready are we to take up these responsibilities? Is there data to show exactly where we are? if we had, then we would know where our priorities should be. What is the level of participation of the locals in the big infrastructural projects vis a vis the foreigner players?
We must have both long and short term plans and these plans must to be aligned to the national plans like the Vision 2030(Mid Term Plan III of 2018 to 2022) or even regional plans like the African Agenda 2063. The standard gauge railway and the LAPSSET projects are some of the projects that IEK needs to study and see how they have been involved and how they can participate in large projects going forward. These e huge infrastructure projects have great influence on trade in the region. How do we increase our role in such projects going forward? Is there a plan? How do we build capacity to continue with regional projects such as the SGR when it goings to the neighbouring countries? Can we build centres of excellence in Kenya for the skills associated with these large projects? I believe we can and it is not difficult if we set our mind to it.
As mentioned above, engineers should be actively involved right from the start of projects including the conceptualization/feasibility stage. Engineers must take an interest in understanding the big picture on the development of the regional countries infrastructure agenda. The engineer must fully understand the impact of his/her project on the society and in so doing design/undertake the project with the user in mind both in today’s time and the future. Engineers must craft unique, fitting and cost effective solutions that will have maximum positive impacts on the lives of our people. We owe our people that in the very least.
As the region undertakes large projects, the issue of local content comes to mind. What is the level of participation of local engineers? How exactly are they participating? Are they effective in their participation? Is there adequate skills/technology transfer? Do they provide home grown solutions or do they just implement what have been prescribed by externals engineers? Do local engineers take ownership of the projects they are involved in? If yes, is the effort planned and progress monitored? What is the “slice of the cake” that local engineers get? How are local engineers, consulting firms and construction companies building capacity to undertake larger share of the large projects? Do we understand local content? These questions must be urgently addressed to ensure the engineer plays his rightful role in the implementation of the country’s infrastructure agenda. Engineers through IEK and ACEK need to actively participate in the development of the local content policies, legislation and institutional/regulatory framework. IEK can further play an important role in training engineers to have the required skills and building capacity.
Policy and Legislation
IEK needs to consider lobbying for it to be anchored in law just the LSK is. I recall this suggestion from the chairman of the Law Reform Commission in a recent address to engineers. This would allow more legal leverage and strengthen the institution to deliver on its mandates. For now, it registered with the Registrar of Societies.
IEK has its plate full in uplifting the plight of engineers and the engineering profession. The pressing issues, include, mentorship and internship for young engineers including student engineers, preparation of young engineers for the job market, equipping engineers with life skills, employment of engineers given the high rate of unemployment in the country, transitioning of graduate engineers to corporate members/professional engineers, level of participation of local engineers in the country’s national/county infrastructure and manufacturing agenda, increase of local content, representation of engineers in key government and private sectors bodies, accreditation of engineering courses in the country, technology transfer, research and development geared toward home grown solutions that are effective, creation of centres of excellence geared toward exportation of skills to the region, continent and indeed the globe. Alignment of engineering training with the job market, etc.
IEK must actively participate in policy formulation and development of relevant legislation, all the way to development of regulatory and institutional framework. In the past the engineer’s participation has been limited. An example is that the government is now working on a local content policy. What is the contribution of engineers in the local content policy formulation? In the oil and gas sector, the senate has bill on local content in oil & gas and extractives sector. Did the engineers participate? How do we have an arm in IEK to be on the lookout for development of legislation and policies and have members ready to make contributions for the betterment of engineers and the engineering profession? We have other, recently promulgated and ongoing pieces of legislation and policies that affect the engineer directly. Did engineers effectively participate in their development? We need to be deliberate so that we deal with issues on policy and legislation in a structured manner. We can borrow a leaf from KEPSA and indeed join them because for example, for every bill or policy that comes out, they have staff/secretariat waiting, who then forward them to relevant sector boards for interrogation/enhancement. I chair the energy and extractives board, we have made significant contributions the energy policy, the energy bill and the petroleum bill. In the process we engaged different stakeholders which include parliamentarians, the ministries, relevant government agencies etc. and have seen many inputs/suggestions taken in.
We need to enhance engineers’ participation/engagement with the devolved governments. This country is taking off because of devolution. We must engage the council of governors; to find out how they can employ engineers, where they need them, how they can engage consulting firms and contractors in a professional and structured manner. We also need to engage them so that they can employ engineers in key and relevant positions within their county governments.
Times are changing
The other thing that we need to recognize is that times are changing. Technology is changing fast and indeed that are many disruptions in the current order. Are we ready? Are we agile enough to take advantage of these changes? Are the courses being current offered locally meeting the job market or industry requirements. We got to take cognizance of the trends that are happening in this World. The projects today are becoming more and more complex, technological advances and artificial intelligence is now the order of the day. Soon we might just have unmanned factories etc. What will be the role of the engineer? How will we be still able to employ/engage the many engineers we have? The structure of the projects is also changing with risks being defined and apportioned differently. This have led to more turn-key projects, more design, build, operate projects, etc. We also have different project financing models. Have engineers positioned themselves to adapt to these changes? What do these changes mean to our profession?
We need to take into account that the Small and medium sized enterprises(SMEs) employ 80% of the employed and contribute about 30% of the GDP. The profession thus need to embrace entrepreneurship and equip engineers with necessary skills to start and run businesses. This should include the young engineers. This option will help create employment, create wealth and get the engineers ready to take up a higher percentage of local content opportunities especially in the construction and manufacturing sectors.
In conclusion, I would like to state that this is a new dawn for IEK. The new council has started very well and shown very good commitment. It has tremendous goodwill from the members. They need to be supported in every way to ensure that they meet the very high expectations from the members. Members should not leave everything to the council but should endeavor to identify ways they can contribute including participating in committees, functions, contributing ideas, attending meetings etc. There is a lot to be done and it is time to get down to work.
We all need to note that, sitting/serving in the council or committees or participating in any other way is a personal sacrifice but I hasten to add, that is our contribution is for the well-being of not only ourselves but also of generations to come.
God bless IEK and God bless Kenya.