“Usoolu” by Engineer and Architect Mohamed Ali

The article below is extracted from an email addressed to the registrar at the Ministry of Housing and Infrastructure.
Mohamed Ali offers an important perspective on the current context of regulating the built environment in Maldives, particularly in the context of the 
the Draft Maldives Construction Bill as opened for public comment recently. Mohamed Ali, having been directly involved in the conceptualization and 
initial draft of the 2011 draft addresses many conceptual and structural issues that needs further discussion and consultation.

 

 

Firstly let me take the opportunity to thank you for your untiring and unwavering efforts to improve and regulate the construction sector. The new guidelines are yet another testament to your and your colleagues’ hard work.

I understand that you have called a meeting this afternoon to explain to Engineers, the now infamous ‘Usoolu’ and thus do let me note down a few of my thoughts on the subject at hand.

-          Act: Is Law 6/2008 still in force? I did go through the AG website and the Gazette but could not find an amendment that extends its authority to the present date. I believe the Male’ Planning Regulation must have been gazetted only because the Law is still in force but do share with us the latest amendment to the Law. If the Law has lapsed the whole argument is moot.

-          Changes to Reg: Extensive changes and additions to the Male’ Planning Regulation is still being made without a proper Law that allows for such changes. 6/2008 states that the Planning Regs should have expired by the year 2009 yet in 2014 the Ministry is still regulating under the Regs without a specific parent Act and all the while arbitrarily bringing about wholesale changes to these regulations. When these arbitrary changes extend to the limit of constraining peoples’ livelihoods, one has to sit back and ask where such powers end. It does seem that the Ministry interprets 6/2008 to mean that the Ministry is authorized to do whatever it likes without limits although in the spirit of 6/2008 clause 5(a) the Planning Regs ought to have been void in 2009 and the Ministry should have ideally gone back to the Parliament for authority regulate the industry.

-          Professional’s rights: The Ministry seems inconsiderate of the fact that, although people may have invested their life savings into educating our Engineers and Architects who having expended significant time and effort to achieve a recognized professional education, these professionals then are subject to the whims of a civil servant with questionable conflict of interest who may subjectively and selectively work to strike them from the register based on previously unspecified issues in an AutoCAD line drawing that the professional had got his draftsperson to produce and all this under questionable authority of the Parliament.

-          Right to debar: The newly revised Male’ Planning Regs of 11 June 2014 does not give the power to debar Designers and Checkers based a system of points deduction but states in section 4. 2 (f) that registration shall be canceled after suspending the party 3 times over and person can be suspended if offence is not rectified after 3 written notices. It does not allude to the intricacies of the point deduction system nor does the points system reflect the modalities stated in the Regs.

-          Points or hours?: The Section 4. 2 (d) of the Regs require 24 hrs CPD for registration whereas the Usoolu describes CPD in points and a means of conversion between hrs and points is not provided.

-          The Regs do not allow for ‘x’ amount of CPD for ‘y’ number of offenses as specified in the Usoolu. This is something made up.

-          Questionable authority: The Ministry in its Usoolu, in places having contradicted and gone beyond the confines of the Planning regs, seems to have overextended the authority that was given by the Permanent Committee of the Parliament to the Ministry through the amended the Planning regs. It might also be construed that by introducing this Usoolu, the Ministry is trying to covertly gain authorities that were withheld by the Parliament permanent committee.

-          Usoolu for Checkers: I believe that the Ministry ought to apply this ‘Usoolu’ only to the new category of people that the Ministry has created, the ‘Checkers’. I believe that the Ministry should hold back from applying the ‘Usoolu’ to the Designers. This document will then only regulate a set of people that the Ministry had created to carry out a work for the govt., a work that is otherwise burdensome and under-resourced in the public sector. It will not seek to debar Engineers and Architects from practicing.

-          Professional Engineer?: One fine day out of the blue while we were cherishing in our Professional Engineer status, we are told in Section 4 – 4(a) of the new Regs that we in fact are not so at all but mere Structural Checkers. No idea what happened there. Of course a registered Professional Engineer status is highly respected throughout the world in the profession and our cvs, business cards and introduction to firms, clients and foreign bodies have been made under the Professional Engineer status. The Ministry seems to not care too much for such trivialities.

-          Incoherent Usoolu: Having bundled the CPD requirement and penalties for architects and engineers as well as checkers into a single document, the whole concept is muddled and don’t seem to address the issues with either of the professions. I believe that an architectural checker needs no CPD other than a program that requires reviewing the Planning regulations. If the Checker makes a further mistake after said CPD then that checker needs to be asked to review the Planning Regs again, not do a CPD on Project Management or an undergraduate module at the MNU. I believe the document is trying to do too much in one go and thus comes across as very badly thought out. There are utterly rubbish and laughable propositions in the document such as deducting points from Architects for drafting mistakes (which is what?) and list vague issues for deducting points from Engineers for issues where clear directives do not exist. The list of issues for Structural Checkers seems to have been drawn from thin air just for the sake of having a list to penalize Engineers.

-          Issues & CPD mismatch: The Usoolu lists planning reg issues that architectural checkers ought to be wary of getting penalized for. But when penalized they are required to follow a project management or other irrelevant CPD. If a CPD is required, the Ministry ought to create a planning regs review program and get architectural checkers to follow that.

-          Issues & CPD mismatch: The CPD programs seem to be geared towards professionals (designers) whereas the issues listed for point deduction is principally geared towards Checkers.

-          Any building professional can check: Issues listed to penalise Architectural Checkers are a few points from the Planing regs against which nonprofessional civil servants had been checking drawings with some success for a quite a long time and does not seem to warrant a sudden need for a stream of highly qualified Architects to get registered as Checkers, although that is not a bad thing. If there is a shortage of people to undertake this work, there ought not to be any restriction for anyone in the building profession who passes the architectural checkers (really a Planning Regs Checker) exam to carry out the work.

-          Insurance: The Ministry seems to have somehow overlooked or not given consideration to the fact that professional indemnity insurance is what generally keeps things in check. Does this not suffice and why do the Ministry require additionally penalize? Structural checkers have been checking under the insurance for a long time, architectural checkers who’s’ burden is a few lines in a planning regs should have no issue. If the Ministry feels people are getting complacent, promote the concept of claiming indemnity insurance from the registrants and that ought to get people’s attention.

-          BC point deduction: It would be very difficult for the Ministry to list out specific issues and how many points are to be deducted when the architectural checker has to check for building code compliance when the Code comes into force. Planning Eegs is miniscule compared to the BC and it’s compliance docs. The whole system of cutting points by stating issues in an Usoolu is constraining to say the least. Look to regulate designers (professionals) is a more professional manner. On the other hand Checkers can be given lists of issues with penalty points. (And I don’t believe in Structural Checkers as this is a professional category). The concept of structural checker was a stop gap measure employed to address a need at the time. The opportunity to do away with the concept was at hand with the introduction of Professional Engineers along with a better regulatory framework, but somehow the whole concept reverted back to a Checker.

-          Checking drawings and Conflict of Interest: It is absolutely unfathomable that the Ministry has taken on to check drawings and that the Ministry does not see a conflict of interest in this. Behind the locked doors of the Ministry, where most all professionals from the very top to the very bottom are registered under the regulations and do practice, drawings of colleagues and self can easily be corrected, although everybody would wish this would not happen. The public would quickly perceive the Architects and Engineers at the Ministry to be super designers as their drawings never gets rejected and pass through with ease. Checking up on exact status and nudging a colleague would not be a problem. And these are the people tasked with regulating the registered and have now brought out an Usoolu whereby other registered professionals, on their watch is struck points and made to do CPDs and even get struck from the register if their drawings are deemed problematic.

-          Committee incompetent: The clause for the committee set up to look into issues and the procedures is dismal reading too. 3 persons from Ministry of Minister’s choosing, an architectural designer and checker shall deem whether a qualified engineer’s work is up to scratch or not. I believe that only a technical body/committee can ascertain guilt, the CIDS can recommend relevant penalty and prescribed committee can oversee if procedure was followed. I would highly suggest not to deviate from the overall structure of the draft building Act in regulating professionals.

-          Committee Rules: Committee rules are inadequate, with no code of conduct, term, remuneration, quorum, convening procedures or other essential clauses. The formation of this committee is not clear in the Regs and powers not specified.

-          Trying to do too much: Planning regs and building code and other relevant acts and regulations are not the same. If what is required is to check for planning regs, tasking a checker who is able to read drawings, operate AutoCad and pass the checker exam shall suffice. Let’s try not to mix everything up. Gone are the days when the Master Builder was all architect, engineer and contractor. Look to separate the planning regs checker vs the architect who shall be tasked to ensure compliance to all regs including building code, planning regs in addition to others under professional indemnity insurance and other procedures. For eg. we do not want to have an electrical wiring checker following the same prescribed CPD programs as that for the architectural checker.

-          Feedback mechanism: The primary and all important issue in the formulation of these regs and Acts is that there is no mechanism set up to get feedback from the industry in a structured manner. There is always the one meeting where the arbitrarily drafted document is introduced and other to shouting and then nothing. No minutes, no writing down of who said what, and no record of how issued were addressed and the procedures followed to address issues. It seems to generally end up a case of accept what we have made, be glad we called you in to inform you of how we are going to regulate you.

-          Structural issues: There are many structural issues with this Usoolu that is difficult to address in a diatribe such as this but I do strongly recommend that the Ministry look to address the concerns in this document before moving ahead with implementing.

Hope to discuss some more on the issues at the meeting.

Regards
Mohamed Ali