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13.12.2005 General News

Pass Engineers Law - Andam

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Accra, Dec. 13, GNA - Professor Kwesi Andam, Vice Chancellor of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, on Monday called on the government to pass the Engineers Bill into law to ensure that the practice of engineering was well regulated according to laid down standards. Speaking to journalists in Accra, he noted that the Engineers Bill had been lying idle at the Ministry of Water Resources; Works and Housing for years, while the practice of the profession continued to fall short of standards provided in the Bill.

Prof. Andam said it was provided in the Bill that graduate engineers from the universities could not be employed as full fledged engineers without going through at least three to four years of supervised training under experienced engineers. "Most contractors in this country employ fresh graduate engineers and when they do not perform, then the contractors turn around to blame the universities for turning out half-baked products. "If some of these contractors were in the UK or the US where there are laws and standards, they would have been arrested for employing graduate engineers to do jobs meant for full fledged engineers," he said.

Professor Andam particularly mentioned Apostle Kwadwo Safo, Founder and Leader of the Kristo Asafo Mission, who was recently quoted in the media as saying that he employed qualified engineers from KNUST, who could not perform. He said Apostle Safo employed graduate engineers to work as technicians; artisans and craftsmen whose job descriptions were different from that of even experienced engineers.

Prof. Andam said the practice whereby some contractors did not employ qualified engineers and thus produced shoddy work, showed that the passage of the Engineering Bill was long overdue. He said since KNUST was set up, it had turned out 44,000 engineers, half of whom were holding very high and enviable positions in very reputable institutions overseas. The remaining half run institutions such as Ghana Telecom, Volta River Authority, Volta Aluminium Company, Electricity Company of Ghana, AngloGold Ashanti and other public and private companies.

Prof. Andam noted that the engineering profession was also suffering from the brain drain, saying that KNUST had put measures in place to keep some of the brilliant engineers it turned out to help to develop more human capacity in the profession. "Through scholarship schemes and sponsored research packages, we managed to retain at least 60 of the first and second class upper graduates on campus last year to undertake academic and industry link research and this year we managed to retain another 85 top class graduates," he said. Prof. Andam said KNUST and the other universities had the potential to produce the human resource capacity needed for the development of the country but governments needed to be serious with the national development agenda instead of concentrating on keeping themselves in power perpetually.

Mr Kweku Amoah Gyarteng, Chief Director of the Ministry of Water Resources, Works and Housing (MWRWH), confirmed in an interview with the Ghana News Agency that the Engineers Bill was still being drafted with a multi-sectoral approach to ensure that no sector was marginalized. He explained that in the past all matters concerning engineers were under the Ministry, but now a lot of engineers worked in other ministries so all those ministries needed to make inputs into the draft before it was moved forward. "We have completed our portion and forwarded it to the other ministries. Currently the Bill is with the Ministry of Road Transport where the chunk of the Bill is being drafted. "It is erroneous for anyone to assume that the Bill is sitting in my office," he said. "In any case we initiated the draft just about two years ago when I took office as Chief Director of the MWRWH."

In a related development, the Ghana Institution of Engineers (GhIE) has described Apostle Safo's activities as reverse engineering, saying they were commendable but not comparable to the work of professional engineers. Dr Robert Adjaye, President of the GhIE, Professor Ebenezer Jackson, Vice President of GhIE and Mr Willie Apatu, immediate past president of GhIE told the Ghana News Agency that people like Apostle Safo had their place in the national development process and should be commended for their work.

"We at GhIE are not in the least against people like Apostle Safo but it is important that we create a clear distinction between professional engineers and people practicing reverse engineering through technology transfer," Dr. Adjaye said. "It is a display of gross ignorance on the part of anybody to compare people like Apostle Safo to professionally trained engineers on the basis of the works of the Apostle." He said the field of engineering encompassed a wide spectrum of skills from graduate engineers, technicians, craftsmen, artisans and more, adding that it was not even correct to compare a graduate engineer and a technician for instance, much more compare the former with someone practicing reverse engineering.

Dr Adjaye explained that whilst professionally trained engineers were involved in purely designing activities, artisans, technicians, craftsmen and others used the designs of engineers to actually build and construct. He said Apostle Safo and others like him hailed as inventors and innovators were not doing anything that had not been done before. He explained that the technology they used was already in existence and they just implemented them. "At best we can describe what they do as technology transfer, which is very good but this cannot be the basis for challenging Ghanaian professional engineers to be up and doing as some members of the public have been doing in recent times."

Dr Adjaye said professionally trained Ghanaians engineers could be compared to others around the world. "If people do not know what engineers are doing they must look at the roads they drive on, the electricity they enjoy, the water they drink and many other facilities they enjoy and they will learn to appreciate our engineers, who design all those facilities before they were constructed." Dr. Adjaye said it was in the plan of the GhIE to visit Apostle Safo's outfit and examine his works and possibly give him an honorary membership of the GhIE, if necessary. He, however, pointed out the works of the Apostle needed theoretical backing of the professional engineers to ensure proper specifications necessary to make such products not just copies of existing ones but improved versions.

Mr Apatu said Apostle Safo himself had not claimed to be an innovator and inventor but the local media erroneously did so. He asked why Apostle Safo had not patented his works if they were original. He noted that students and staff of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) held exhibitions every year to display their works but did not get the kind of publicity people like Apostle Safo got. He urged the media to investigate more into engineering activities and educate the public properly on what was a new engineering invention and innovation, as against what was a result of technology transfer and reserve engineering.

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