As a structural engineer, there are times when I must be uncompromising. My clients expect me to be uncompromising in my design calculations and in holding any contractor, who is selected to build what I have designed, accountable to the highest standards of construction. If I fail, then my designed bridges or buildings can collapse when they are loaded.
If the contractor’s work is substandard, then I will not certify it for payment. My clients are not obligated to pay for sub-standard work. Some contractors may not appreciate me holding them accountable to high standards of construction, but all of my clients do.
As the president of Walbrent College, our students are taught to supervise the construction of strong and low-maintenance houses. The consequences of substandard construction can be fatal to the occupants if their houses collapse during an earthquake.
To put this in context, there were reportedly 300,000 deaths in Haiti during the 2010 earthquake. The buildings in which many of them died were constructed no worse than those built in Barbados. Incidentally, most schools in Barbados are vulnerable to collapse during an earthquake and should be strengthened with dispatch. High standards of accountability should not be taken lightly by those who truly care.
Walbrent College students are held to a high examination standard because it is in our client’s best interests. Therefore, the minimum pass mark for the prerequisite ‘Building Durable Houses’ course is 100%, and most students achieve that high standard. Our clients are not the students whom we train, but the immediate and future occupants of the houses whose construction they will supervise.
When I got into politics, my clients became the people of Barbados, and my role was to look out for their best interests. Foreseeing that we were on the brink of economic ruin, a non-austerity solution to the main problems hindering Barbados’ development was designed.
The solutions were published for public scrutiny three years ago and independently verified as workable. The implementation plans were also published so that any DLP or BLP administration could spare Barbadians from the type of IMF directed austerity that Guyana and Jamaica were forced to experience.
When Solutions Barbados started to attract candidates, decisions were made by majority vote, despite most of them going against my stated preferred positions. We developed a constitution which included a mandatory contract requirement to keep candidates accountable. All candidates would have to pay a severe penalty if they voted against the interests of Barbadians. The constitution, with the contract requirement, was unanimously adopted when we had 25 candidates.
Although I founded Solutions Barbados, I did not allow any special place to be written for me in our constitution. I have the same power as any other member, namely, one vote. I have given Solutions Barbados to all candidates, who vote for an executive committee every year. I am only the president because the candidates unanimously voted for me at our last annual general meeting. They may vote for another candidate next year if I do not perform satisfactorily.
Following the general election, most candidates agreed to continue. Of the remainder, approximately half wanted to pursue other interests and may return at a later date, while the other half did not wish to be held accountable through a contract. In order to accommodate them, we agreed to vote on whether we would keep the mandatory contract requirement.
At our last meeting, all candidates willingly and formally extended their contractual commitment to be held accountable to the people of Barbados. They confirmed that any penalties paid would be shared equally among all responsible registered charities in Barbados. The penalty amount for all candidates is the Barbados equivalent of US$250,000, because that is the bribe amount that a contractor who worked in Barbados, and was convicted and imprisoned in the US for bribery, admitted to paying politicians.
While campaigning, we were warned about the temptations of becoming just another set of corrupt politicians if elected. It is proven that persons’ sincere promises do not prevent their subsequent irresponsible behaviour, without an effective method of accountability. Our contracts are intended to keep our future selves accountable when they are offered the inevitable bribe.
(Grenville Phillips II is the president of Walbrent College who has trained over 1,000 late-learners across the Caribbean region. He is also the founder of Solutions Barbados and can be reached atNextParty246@gmail.com)