The Chief Executive of the Engineers Registration Board, Armando Lionjanga, says the new parastatal hopes to have started the registration and accreditation of professional engineers by the second quarter of next year.
Speaking in an interview, Lionjanga, who is himself an engineer and former Permanent Secretary in the then Ministry of Works, Transport and Communications, says the Board is about to appoint a consultant whose mandate will be to help develop the strategic plan of ERB.
The consultant will advise on the organisational structure of ERB as well as propose an implementation plan of that strategy.
“We have waited for very long without ERB, I am sure we can wait for three more months just to get it done right,” said Lionjanga.
He emphasized the sensitivity of the envisaged registration of professional engineers, not least because the country has operated in a free for all kind of environment.
He observed that coming from an unregulated environment to a regulated one, in as far as engineering is concerned, “obviously there are a lot of elements out there who have claimed to be engineers while they are not. They have gotten away with murder and it is ERB mandate to bring that to an end”.
Lionjanga says there is a lot at stake given that, in many respects, engineering plays a key role in the economy. Consumers of engineering services should not pay for shoddy work.
He pointed out that because Botswana has been lagging behind in as far as registering engineers is concerned, there is always a possibility that the country is awash with bogus engineers running away from jurisdictions that regulate their environment as they take advantage of the vacuum that has existed in Botswana.
It is only through introducing mandatory registration that the country and profession could be cleansed of such elements.
“Botswana has been lagging behind. We are coming from the bottom of the pile, as it were, to the top of it. The regulation of professional engineering services places the country on a new competitive pedestal. Introducing mandatory registration of engineers is in conformity with the world’s best standards.”
Lionjanga is of the opinion that the more Botswana embraced international standards for its engineering services, the greater is the opportunity that the country’s engineers will be embraced across the globe.
But before the actual registration of professional engineers can start, it is clear that Lionjanga has a lot of ground work to do.
He is starting the organisation from scratch, and it is clear that he needs to build a lot of capacity to empower it to go through what, by all accounts, are uncharted waters.
If the task is daunting, this veteran public officer is not showing it. Instead, he says he has set himself a target to build what is a world class organization that will be the first port of call even for engineers coming to do work in Botswana.
While priority is to build structures by way of recruiting the right team, he emphasizes that integrity and zero tolerance for corruption are the two characteristics that will ultimately win ERB the confidence of both the professionals it is supposed to regulate as well as the public whose interests it is supposed to serve.
Thus, he says it is important that ERB only starts registering when it has become confident that all pieces are in place.
After registration, those professional engineers who would meet the mark as set by the Board would be issued with certificates that run for a maximum 12 months, all expiring end of December every year.
He says even after registration starts, there will be a transitional phase beyond which those who do not qualify will be elbowed out of the industry or face the full wrath of the law if they continue practicing.
The transitional period is meant to allow a smooth completion of all projects that would have started under the old unregulated regime.
“Professional integrity of engineers is very important. We are making it clear that every engineer wishing to practice in Botswana will have to come through ERB. The law is very clear that one ceases to be a member if they contravene the Act. Government has decided to come up with this law to protect the public. If an engineer designs a bridge that later collapses, it is members of the public whose lives are in danger. There is a clear government role to protect the public who are consumers of the engineering services,” said Lionjanga.