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Oil and gas investments will boost engineering sector - Dr Mutenyo

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What you need to know:

Civil, electrical, and mechanical engineering among others are critical disciplines, whose pivotal role will be enhanced by the oil and gas construction boom. With just under 1,500 registered engineers in the country, the chairman of the Engineers Registeration Board Dr Isaac Mutenyo, shares his insights, strategies and skills transfers needs among other issues on the industry.

1. What is World Engineering Day?

This day (celebrated on March 4th) commemorates what engineering is doing in context to sustainable development. It was put aside by UNESCO to remind the international Community that sustainable development is anchored upon the engineering services, recognise the ingenuity of engineering. In Uganda, we are expected to elevate the needs around engineering, moreso driven by the now signed Final Investment Decision by the oil and gas firms. This will set a capital flow of over Shs30 trillion into Uganda’s economy.

2. What does the World Engineering Day bring to the industry in Uganda?  

In context to Uganda, which is currently undergoing large interventions in engineering activities. There are blossoming development such as the Oil Pipeline, the International Airport being built in Hoima, the new cities, the fly over project. All these infrastructure developments remind us as Ugandans that we must be part of them. The context of the expected heavy capital injection into and within Uganda’s economy in the coming years also means that the engineering fraternity oughts to share best global practices in seeking contracts, partnerships, improving skills, financial discipline, capacity for implementation.

3. What is this year’s theme and does it resonate with the times?

Being an international event, the theme for this year is, “Build back wiser, Engineering the future.” This is interesting as it encourages us to do engineering in a way that sustains development but also positively influences the community. For example, using digitisation and better systems which are more intelligent in the built environment.

Sustainable development therefore, rests on the bedrock of engineering. This is validated by the fact that all developed countries, have the engineering output in terms of infrastructure as an illustration of sustainable development.

We want to make sure the projects which are being undertaken in Uganda, also improve in the context of sustainability. Remember the budget lines for construction projects are always intensive. There is need for value for money in the projects being undertaken.

4. Tell us more about the Engineers Registration Board and its mandate with Uganda’s economy where there is intensive public and private sector engineering requirements annually.

This is a government entity created by an Act of Parliament. All engineers belong to the Uganda Institute of Professional Engineers. As a board, the key challenge we face as we regulate the professionals and services of engineering, is the current Act which only makes provision for registering and regulating individuals who are university graduates. We don’t register technicians. We do not register technologists. This is a big gap. We also do not regulate the firms or companies doing engineering work in Uganda. Therefore, we are not completing what should be a comprehensive mandate. We are now moving towards that. Currently, we have only 1,500 registered engineers which is very low compared to the volume and value of ongoing projects.

5.  Talking about ongoing developments, there are numerous infrastructure projects underway including for the oil and gas sector. How ready is the engineering fraternity?

We are also looking at skills transfers. There is new expertise that will definitely come into the country, around the oil and gas sector. But most of our engineers are also already highly competent to work anywhere in the world. You saw the Nile bridge in Jinja and Karuma Hydro Power dam construction, we have a number of Ugandan engineers on board in as far as execution of these projects is concerned. As the Engineers Registration Board, we encourage all engineers in the different disciplines to take interest in all these developments since, it is very important for the economy.  

6.  Which are some of the key areas or sectors that still require development of more engineering related skills?

All areas of engineering need more competences, skills, and experiences are still lacking given the low numbers I already mentioned. Civil, electronic, mechanical and so on. If we broaden attachments for our engineers with theoretical understanding and little or no skills will help us improve on the pool of competences. The Nile bridge in Jinja has really improved our pool of engineering experience. 

7. Engineering is among the top professions globally. Is there space for benchmarking and skills transfer that can be talked of in context to Uganda?  

Transportation is a key area for which we need to build capacity and take advantage of the environment that God has bestowed upon us. Our use of water transport and infrastructure is the lowest in the world despite the availability of this resource.

We also need to take advantage of technology including unmanned vehicles and if we target, learn and develop around these emerging areas; we can be at par with some of our colleagues.

8. There are concerns about the quality of some engineering works including personnel involved. How is this challenge being mitigated?

Yes. We have had a negative site of engineering, recently we had a Minister (of state for Economic Monitoring, Ogwang), inspecting some projects across the country revealing a lot of things around construction which was very bad. Many of these things occur due to lapses by some people who are in charge. For example, a number of people at times opt for cheap labour which in most case delivers compromising work. However, all these challenges can be reversed by stringent monitoring and ensuring compliance by actual professional engineers.

9. What are some of the legal or regulatory reforms, if any, that are needed for a more efficient and effective engineering fraternity?  

We are amending the Engineers Act through the Ministry of Works. We hope the whole value chain will be brought under registration and regulation. The firms and companies are the conduits under which the professionals are used. We need to know if they are qualified. Most of the problems we have such as the fires, collapsing building among others, can be immediately mitigated before the law is amended. We need thorough enforcement. Imagine people are building all sorts of structures across the (Kampala) city divisions, and for which each division has just one inspector? Imagine all the stages from paperwork to verification to inspection to monitoring.

10. What are your parting shots to Ugandans, especially the Engineering fraternity?

There is a lot for us to gain both the public, technocrats and engineers, by identifying success stories and managing challenges collectively. Most of the good things elsewhere can also be done.

 

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