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Home » News » Comments » “Architects Shun their New Law”

“Architects Shun their New Law”

Publishing Date : 26 September, 2017

Author :

GOITSEMODIMO MANOWE

I have many questions that demand answers!

Who are these self-proclaimed “architects” in Botswana, the WeekendPost keeps on writing about who are in growing acrimony with the Architects’ Registration Council (ARC)? Why is their identity concealed, what are their academic credentials? Are they registered professionals and how many of them? Does the writer have proof that they are registered and are entitled to be called architects? Does she or he have vested interest?

When did these “architects” wake up to the reality that regulation is here and start organising to critique a piece of legislation that is nearly 10 years old? Surely it cannot be the more than 190 architectural professionals (list increasing) who currently appear on the register produced by the ARC and have found it fitting for their credentials to be accredited by the body established by an Act of Parliament. Yet the WeekendPost makes it seem like this is so- architects shunning their own law! Really?


 From the content of this article, the writer of the WeekendPost is incapable of comprehending the all-important difference between individuals masquerading as architects and those legitimately entitled by law to call themselves, practice and hold themselves as such.  Would the writer, for an example, call anybody challenging the relevant Act and not registered by the Health Professions Council in Botswana, a doctor? Why is the Weekend Post according those few individuals the credibility and legitimacy they don’t deserve? What happened to the questionnaire produced by the Weekend Post, on the same issues, that the ARC happily answered long ago and when will it be published for the benefit of the public?


The writer goes on: “It has come to the attention of this publication that excessive powers have been vested in the Architects’ Registration Council”. Precisely what powers does this Act give to the ARC that are excessive and different from those given to other similar regulatory bodies like the Engineers’ Registration Board (ERB), the Quantity Surveyors’ Registration Council (QSRC) or Botswana Institute of Chartered Accountant (BICA) for example?  Prior to regulation, engineering technicians were masquerading and practicing as professional engineers, nurses as doctors, accounting technicians as accountants, etc.


They no longer do and there are regulatory bodies to protect the integrity of those professions, in the national interest. Why should architecture be any different? If this is a mistake, then God forbid, the country must revisit all its laws regulating such professions. Why are we not hearing of a ridiculous argument, in the papers, that a nurse is to be permitted to act as a doctor simply because she or he has donkey years of experience and there is no record of a person who has died under their care when there was a shortage of doctors in the country and there was no Health Professionals Act? Should engineering technicians (not registered for that matter) be clamoring to be treated equally to professional engineers?
 

Would that be in the national interest? It would be interesting to know which stadium or hospital project in Botswana has been successfully implemented under the professional oversight, supervision and contract administration of a technician let alone a draftsperson? The ARC would be very interested in concrete examples.


Price fixing: Just how can price fixing (assuming he or she means lack of competition) exists where there is room for fee bidding. Fact: The framework that regulates the delivery of architectural service is available, to ensure value-for-money and to eliminate undercutting at fees that cannot sustain proper professional service, allows for competitive fee offers. Like with the Public Procurement and Disposal Act, such competitive fee offers must still be evaluated to determine if they are rational, because there comes a point where a competitive fee offer cannot result in value-for-money and may directly result in short-cuts in the delivery of professional services to the detriment of the client. The self-proclaimed architects obviously do not have a clue about the said framework and how the ethics of the profession work.


What the proponents of this misinformation about “price fixing” really want is a situation where a self-proclaimed technologist could continue to undercut an architect and claim, to an unsuspecting and innocent client, the ability to offer the same quality of service at a cheaper price. That is not value-for-money and that is not in the public interest! In that connection, public interest is not always and simply that of a client or owner of a building. It is also the interest of end-users and national interest regarding occupational health, safety, environmental issues, etc-things that the lowest fee does not always or necessarily guarantee, especially in a commercial environment.


The article on monopoly: Are there not enough draftspersons, technologists or architects in this country to compete amongst themselves such that this would create monopoly of architectural services by any group or category? What is wrong with competition exclusively between individuals of the same qualifications, professional standing and competency levels as in medicine, law, engineering and accounting, for example?


Is this not the foundation for our own Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Act? What precisely is wrong with the provision, in the Act, to standardize the tariff of fees that is cost-based, like in Kenya, Zambia, Tanzania, and many other countries in order to maximize competition on merit (maximize value for money) and where there is an option to that tariff table and for clients to invite competitive fee offers based on hourly rates, as the tariff provides? Does this law prevent competition between draftspersons or technologists at the exclusion of architects where building size and complexity is within the expected and established competency levels of such professionals?


The answer to this question, and for the knowledge of the general public, is a big NO! Is a draftsperson as competent as a technologist or architect? Is this the logic? Here readers can judge for themselves! How has the internationally adopted principle of alignment of the duty of care and skill to levels of training and qualifications, in any profession, ever impacted negatively on the economy of any country and society, and which country serves as an example? Is this not the principle that underpins the national qualifications framework, here in Botswana and elsewhere?


The article on fees for direct appointment; Fact: In terms of the current tariff, a building costing P180,000 or less would attract a fee, for the entire service from inception to end of construction on site (i.e. 7 work-stages in total), of P13, 302-75 to be precise. The portion of this fee, up and including submission to Town or City Council would be P5,321-10, and the client is under no obligation to appoint anyone for the entire service and need not do so. But then why would any client take this route, at all, if one can pay only P2,629-00 to a draftsperson for 8-hour work, up to and including technical documentation (all stages prior to construction documentation; stages 1 & 4) based on hourly rates, as the tariff provides, and seeing that an architect or technologist is not necessary, for that small building, and partial services may be selected? Is this not comparable to what people have been paying all along, by selecting the services and professionals they really need and can afford and omitting the rest? Let us be serious: how, then, has this tariff (both project cost and time based) negatively affected affordable housing, driven up costs, impoverished the ordinary Motswana or denied the public access to architectural services?


Who is misleading who, and is this not deliberate misinformation for personal gain and hidden agenda- the true agenda and open secret being that self-proclaimed technologists who have, by default, been practicing as architects should automatically be declared as such and draftspersons somehow also get dragged into the argument to help the cause? The Act permits anybody with the requisite knowledge and skill to apply for any category of registration. If such people possess the qualifications to register and practice as architects, why have they not come forward to apply for registration in that category?


Titles of degrees or diplomas are not important- the self-proclaimed professionals know that but would rather mislead the public to believe that they are competent and do not have to be subjected to the rigour of regulation. The public must believe that a draftsperson or someone just a notch above does not need oversight on large and complex projects. The public is also made to believe that a person trained over a period of 3 years of study (entry level for technologist) and sometimes through a City and Guilds diploma program deserves equal recognition to a degree holder from UB who has gone through 5 years of full time study; - soon to become 6 years. That is simply preposterous and a threat to the integrity of the profession.


Representation in the ARC: It is claimed that there in not enough public representation and the Architects Association of Botswana (AAB) is conflicted. Fact: The Act provides, to some degree, and not for wholesale self-regulation. Any institute that represents the majority of architectural professionals (architectural draftspersons and architectural technologists included), i.e. those registered by the ARC and recognized as professionals, elects 4 members to the Council. All that a rival institute has to do is prove that their membership outnumbers that of the one currently represented. The Minister (a public representative) appoints 2 members, one of whom does not have to be an architectural professional.


The Human Resource Development Council (a public body) appoints 1 member. The Department of Building and Engineering Services (yet another public organization) has representation in the form of an ex-officio member. How much more can this become public and democratic? The WeekendPost story will be more interesting and beneficial to the nation if the host of questions above are answered and facts stated cleanly disputed.

Goitsemodimo S. Manowe is a registered and seasoned practicing architect. he is the founding Chairperson of the Architects’ Registration Council.  He writes in his personal capacity.

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