Younten Tshedup | Panbang

The ongoing conference for engineers, architects and planers in Panbang, Zhemgang discussed the real presence of “ghost engineers”.

Participants shared that the practice of using ghost engineers was hampering the quality of infrastructures and agencies concerned must address the issue urgently.

Since the conference is based on the theme “professional accountability for quality infrastructure”, one of the participants said that due to lack of professionalism among the stakeholders involved, the quality of projects in the country was suffering.

He suggested that the practice of using “ghost engineers” be strictly monitored and heavy penalty imposed on those who were found actively guilty.


Who or what are the ghost engineers?    

Construction Association of Bhutan’s (CAB) general secretary, Tshering Yonten, explained that for contractors to qualify into the two upper groups—medium and large contractor— there were a set of requirements that needed to be followed.

Besides the number of machinery, past experience and financial support, among others, to qualify into a medium level contractor group, one needs to have at least one engineer. For large contractors, they should have at least three engineers of different qualification and experience level.

“This requirement is just to qualify into the groups. This doesn’t guarantee you any work, but you become eligible to participate in the bidding process,” he said.

To win a contract or project, procuring agencies set a series of requirements that contractors have to fulfill.

This is where the requirement for multiple engineers with different education and experience level are asked for.

To fulfill the requirements in order to get the work, Tshering Yonten, said that contractors bring in engineers who were available in the market without actually involving them in the project.

Generally, these engineers are the ones who are unemployed, fresh graduates, and those who are not engaged in other projects.

On paper, the requirement for all the different engineers is achieved. However, in the actual ground, there will be no engineers. These engineers are so called “ghost engineers”.

“This mainly happens because there is no physical inspection by the committee while awarding the works,” said Tshering Yonten.

He said that certificates and curriculum vitae (CV) of engineers were rented out for a specific time period. Payments are made accordingly and the engineers earn money without even visiting the project site.

Contractors are benefited too because they have to pay considerably lower than what they would have to otherwise. However, it is the quality of projects that takes a heavy blow in this tradeoff.

Tshering Yonten said that the association would want to remove the practice as it affected those in the business who were genuinely interested to build quality infrastructure.

“Most of ghost engineers are produced by the medium and large contractors’ group since they are required to have all these requirements,” he said. “Because of these few group of contractors, the whole industry gets the blame for inferior quality works.”

Department of Roads’ (DoR) director general, Tenzin, said that while the concept of “ghost engineers” was widely used in the country, most of the time it might not be true.

He said that when the contractors do not produce their engineers at the site for a long time, they were either asked to replace the engineers or made to pay fines.

The DG said that this was happening due to lack of qualified and experienced engineers in the market. “Most of the experienced engineers are leaving and the number of contractors are on the rise.”

Meanwhile, CAB during the conference proposed for a more stringent inspection and physical verification of engineers requirement while awarding the contracts.

“All procuring agencies, government, corporate or private must seriously look into this issue,” said the general secretary. “This is the only way we can improve the quality of infrastructures in the country.”

Officials from the works and human settlement ministry said that by June 2020 the ministry would be registering all the engineers in the country to address the problem of ghost engineers.