In an SN letter of February 11, the view was expressed that professionals such as engineers and architects were not playing a meaningful role in the construction industry to ensure that structures were designed and built in accordance with generally accepted standards (‘Professionals not playing a sufficiently prominent role in construction industry’).
Unfortunately, Guyana is not one of those enlightened countries which as a matter of necessity and policy have legally enforced codes of practice, and therefore Guyanese are generally free to design and build anything as they see fit. In Georgetown, the M&CC with the Ministry of Housing have oversight within a certain jurisdiction to enforce specific building parameters such as the delineation of a building’s boundary, but they do not review such vital elements of a structure such as strength requirements, soil bearing capacity or fire safety in the case of a building when plans are submitted. At the other end of the spectrum many of the so-called professionals are not licensed nor are they qualified by their limited training and experience to undertake the work they dabble with.
Because of the lack of regulation and legal enforcement with the imposition of stiff penalties for non-compliance, the country pays dearly for shoddy work/service such as the Good Hope stelling gangway collapse, slippages of river revetments at Charity and Mabaruma, delays in the Hope Canal and Vreed-en-Hoop power station completions and so forth and so on. Then there are safety concerns for workers in the absence of legally enforced safety rules and regulations and patients who suffer from medical malpractice everywhere because of lax medical oversight.
Since its inception, the Guyana Association of Professional Engineers (GAPE) has entered into dialogue with the government of the day to legally establish codes of practice for engineers and the industry, but so far their efforts have been in the wilderness as legislators seem uninterested in statutes to enforce standards of any kind unless there is a public outcry as was the case with establishing speed limits on the roads.
Unless standards and codes of practice are established and legally binding for the various professions serving society, be it engineering, medical, legal or construction, there will be little or no change to the status quo and people will continue to suffer the consequences of malpractice of all sorts and in every field. In an environment where claimed professionals tend to do as they please and are answerable to no one, regulations and codes of practice have to be established and legally enforced to hold them accountable for their accreditation and performance if the present trend towards lawlessness in the country is to be avoided.