By Kurt Campbell
[www.inewsguyana.com] – According to Senior Officer within the Ministry of Public Works, Geoffery Vaughn an assessment the contracts awarded over the last five years, where loans and grants were received via international agencies such as the IDB and World Bank shows that only a few national contractors have the capacity to execute projects funded by these agencies.
He said it is very worrying that the majority of some 98 registered local contractors are faced with capacity issues. He was at the time making a Presentation at the 4th Annual Engineering Conference on the Challenges in the Local Construction Sector.
Vaughn explained how the involvement of international finances makes possible the implementation of several projects, roads, bridges, sea defenses.
“National construction firms have no funds or extra fees to participate in sponsorship of privatized projects; it is a challenge because there are less and less projects being done by our local contractors.”
Vaughn, who is the Coordinator of the Works Services Group at the Public Works Ministry, explained that direct foreign investment in projects lead to increase in construction demands, creating work opportunities for local firms. He added that it is a big advantage, but several local contractors are unable to take up opportunity and make use of it.
“National construction companies lack the technical and managerial capacity to understand most foreign funded projects, that’s a fact… there has been a shift, in the construction sector, where we are finding lots of persons who are not qualified are actually managing projects and this is the reason for the time over run, cost overrun, and defective builds of quantities. We have to join heads, join hands to move forward,” he said.
Vaughn also identified as a challenge an ominous shortage of professionals and sub-professionals to actually supervise projects.
“If one is to understand the education system, the area continues to have a shortfall with the most important asset; our human resource. This asset is needed to meet the demand of the technological revolution of the 20th century.”
According to him, an overview of the 2012/2013 CXC results show that much students are not passing the science based subjects such as Mathematics which shows a meager 30.35%, chemistry a 52.39%, physics a 54.34%, and English a45.69% pass rate.
He believes this is where the core of Guyana’s construction challenges begins. “We have to try to fix it. For us to move on we have to deal with the core. If science and math are not up to scratch our construction sector will continue to suffer.”
In reviewing reports from the UG’s Faculty of Technology, from the years 2009-2013, some 2,900 enrolled for the engineering programme, from a total enrollment of 31,090. This represents 9.3% of the university population over that five years period.
“How do you supply our construction sector with engineers, with clerk of works, with technicians, which supervisors when we have such a meager figure?” Vaughn questioned.
“We have to be cognizant of the fact that for our construction sector to improve, we have to build our training, capacity, we have to strengthen the students coming from the secondary level, we have to give them the tool for them to understand math and science base subjects. This is the only way that they will be able to deal with the challenges that we are faced with in the sector.”
The Conference is being hosted by the Ministry of Public Works in collaboration with the University of Guyana under the theme: “Building Guyana’s Future step By Step.”