Government has decided that after three years of sewage problems in Worthing, the solution is beyond the capabilities of the Barbados Water Authority. This is not surprising as Government has been degrading engineering posts for some time.
Barbados came to a crossroads over 40 years ago. We could have continued with our highly professional civil service that others wanted to copy, or we could copy the example of failed states and politicize ours. Our politicians chose to politicize it. But it was the degrading of the engineering posts that was most harmful.
Government started putting non-engineers in engineering posts. When engineers complained, our politicians permanently solved this problem by abolishing all engineering posts and creating a new post called Technical Officer.
This is a root cause of Barbados’ poorly designed and high maintenance infrastructure. Barbados needs to care about the professional development of public sector engineers, since their work affects us all. They can demonstrate this care by facilitating their route to chartership.
The Ministry of Public Works used to have six chartered engineers, who ensured the proper design and maintenance of our roads and drainage systems. The Barbados Water Authority used to have three chartered engineers, who ensured the proper design and maintenance of our water and wastewater systems. By 2004, there was not a single chartered engineer in the entire public service.
A modern Barbados needs highly qualified engineers to ensure that our infrastructure is designed to be as low-maintenance as possible, economically constructed with no defects, and effectively maintained to avoid customer complaints. Without this professional management, we can expect intolerable infrastructure maintenance problems as a natural result.
This brings us to the sewage problems that have been affecting Worthing for the past three years.
Government had two good options for quickly identifying and proposing a solution to the sewage problems. They could have invited engineers, both from within and outside of Barbados, to tender for the engineering work, or they could have invited the Barbados Association of Professional Engineers to participate in the problem-solving process.
Government chose to engage the services of consultants. However, the final insult was to disqualify all Barbadian engineers from tendering for the work, and exclusively select foreign consultants to solve a very simple problem.
The Auditor General keeps complaining about the audited accounts not being completed. These accounts can be completed by any member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Barbados. How would accountants feel if the Government disqualified all of them from tendering for this work, and then engaged the services of a foreign consultant to displace them?
I am sure that all professions in Barbados would reasonably expect Government, which is supposed to represent our interests, to include local professionals in the tender for any taxpayer funded work. Government should never be handing out no-bid contracts exclusively to foreign consultants in 2017. We are no longer a colony.
Are the foreign consultants who have unfairly displaced Barbadian engineers in this no-bid service to blame? Of course not. They are simply engaged to perform a service, completely oblivious to the harmful consequences of their engagement. Persons who care only about their fees and nothing else are called mercenaries.
Since Government has now embraced this path, then all professionals, especially those not yet targeted, should be very concerned. If they choose to keep silent now, then when they are inevitably targeted, there will be no one left to speak for them.