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Criminalise thriving sale of architects, engineers licences

COMMENTARY
By Nashon Okowa | January 26th 2019

We have, and rightfully so, for some time been bashing the construction statutory agencies for quite literally every mishaps that have befallen this sector. But without doubt, professionals in the construction industry have been as culpable as the statutory institutions for exacerbation of this sector’s impunity. There are sundry reasons to qualify this conjecture however, the obvious one has to be the continuous dubious practice of some licensed construction professionals selling their certificates and stamps at a fee in sunlight.

During my construction management training at the university, we heard tales of how students got busy with side hustle projects upon reaching third year. We longed for that year and sure we indeed lived to witness and testify to this. It was, and I still believe is, a norm for clients seeking cheap services to acquire them from students at university. To evade the statutory requirement of having registered consultant practising licence for approval purposes, these licences were bought at a fee from some unscrupulous licensed professionals.

Needless to say that by the time we were graduating, we knew of certain individuals' booming business of selling their licences for a fee. Stamping architectural drawings for a small project say single maisonette would cost about Sh5,000 and about Sh7,000 for structural drawings. These registered architects and engineers never cared to even review drawings they stamped. In fact in many instances, the office secretary was the one mandated to do the stamping after receiving money. We are told of queues of people seeking their drawings stamped and their offices.

This practice continues to date and we must boldly say so. The racket, I have learnt, no longer has only students but also quacks in the industry who continue to con unsuspecting clients. However, it is unsurprising that the sellers of licences are unchanged, if anything they have in increased in number and become veterans in the game – soon to be millionaires. I dare you to silently ask people in this industry and you will resoundingly hear of certain names in license trading business; they are well known in this sector. There names appear on very many construction site boards as consultants and yet you may mistake their offices for a store. This practice must stop.

The perpetuation of this business licence sale has been the lukewarm laws governing these professions. But also for a long time I wondered why the professional registration boards didn’t dare even call these people out for the public good – of course they know them. Are they accomplice in this? I don’t know. Though we must acknowledge that certain baby steps have been attempted recently probably in more than a decade.

It is time we criminalise this practice for the public good. We cannot let people do business with our lives. There has been a surge in construction of unsound buildings across the country. The national Building Inspectorate report on buildings that should be demolished is alarming not to mention the nearly normalised building collapses. It is reasonable to conclude that this business has been a contributor to this menace. It has allowed individuals not qualified by law to oversee construction projects at the expense of people’s lives.

Not acceptable! I don’t agree that the only punishment should be deregistration of the said individual or firm. There has to be a higher price to be paid if we are to address this rot for the public safety once and for all.

In the past, I have severally questioned why the public is not told who the consultants for collapsed or to be demolished buildings are. It is always too convenient, but not surprising, why none has been mentioned to date. This cabal seems to have their footprint everywhere in this sector including statutory agencies. They must be stopped. I vouch for making this practice a criminal offence with hefty sentences.

- The writer is chairman of Association of Construction Managers of Kenya. ([email protected])  

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