Requirements necessary to strengthen Guyana’s engineering needs

Dear Editor,
In a Guyana Times letter of Jan. 8, Professor Emeritus Budhu reviewed the Auditor General’s Reports (AGR) for years 2019 and 2020, and identified a number of problems which the Government has encountered in the construction of its infrastructure projects. He concluded that these problems would continue to fester unless steps are taken to rectify their underlying causes, particularly so since the Govt plans to embark on an ambitious infrastructure programme for its planned double-digit economic growth from the resources generated by the rapidly expanding offshore oil industry.
Professor Budhu’s evaluation of some of the problems outlined in the AGR are worthy of consideration for necessary changes. However, he did not dwell on the key issue given in the AGR, with which he concurred on the underlying cause for the plethora of transgressions and creative corrupt practices in the execution of infrastructure projects across several Government Ministries; which, as he stated, has eroded public trust and is hampering development.
The key issue the AGR noted why many Govt contracts was corruption, with large time and cost overruns and scant oversight because of poor and/or lack of accountability and adequate construction management/supervision, as many of the Government’s engineering contracts for a variety of works were executed by several ministries with teams of incompetent, corrupt and unqualified personnel.
Therefore, there is urgent need for the Government to reorganise and consolidate its various engineering departments with the capability of providing all its engineering needs, and staff those with competent technical and managerial personnel. Before doing so, however, the Govt needs to know what engineering capabilities it has, what its needs are, and how these could be met to adequately satisfy the country’s requirements.
Hence there is need for a commission to examine the country’s existing engineering capabilities, its requirements in terms of personnel, and ancillary facilities and support associated therewith, such as surveyors, hydrologists, architects, laboratories etc. The commission should be comprised of experienced personnel, some of whom could probably come from the World Bank, of which Guyana is a member.
It is worth noting that, in the late 1950s and early 1960s, the then Ministry of Works and Hydraulics (MW&H) under the Colonial Govt had such an organisation which was responsible for successfully implementing most of the country’s development projects, and those are still functioning today. Unfortunately, the MW&H was broken up by successive Governments after Independence, and these splinter teams, located in several other ministries with incompetent and corrupt personnel, have severely weakened the country’s engineering capabilities, as many of the competent staff of the MW&H left Guyana for ‘greener pastures’, and political directives became the order of the day, particularly in the execution and directives of engineering-related works and services.

Yours sincerely,
Charles Sohan