Govt. and thromde officials involved in private business?

Private architects and engineers are opposed to the practice 

Architecture: Private architects and engineers questioned Thimphu Thromde officials on the legality of government architects and engineers working for private individuals, during their meeting with the thromde on January 27.

Participants expressed concerns that with no alternative means of earning, their livelihoods are being affected with government officials preparing infrastructure drawings for private individuals.

A participant claimed that government officials especially from the works and human settlement ministry and the thromde are engaged in such private work.

The thromde’s executive secretary, Passang Dorji, said that the thromde invited the private architects and engineers for the meeting mainly to discuss such issues and enhance cooperation and partnership with them.

Passang Dorji said that people allege that government officials are involved in drawing the blue prints for private individuals and charging them fees, which is actually the mandate of the private architects and engineers.

“There is a general perception that the thromde officials make infrastructure drawings for private individuals and make a private architect or engineer sign on the work,” he added.

Passang Dorji said that the thromde is responsible for regulating quality and monitoring of the infrastructures. “The thromde officials should not be involved in rent seeking behavior, corruption and other malpractices.”

“If the thromde officials make drawings and get it signed by a private engineer then both the parties should be considered partners in crime and corruption,” he added. “Should anything happen to an infrastructure, whoever signed on the drawing/design will be held accountable irrespective of who made the drawings.”

The participants suggested the thromde to enforce a requirement to submit a legal undertaking by structural and electrical engineers on all drawings and designs submitted to the thromde for approval to deter government engineers from getting involved in the private business.

Passang Dorji said that the Anti-Corruption Act of Bhutan and Bhutan Civil Service Rules (BCSR) prohibit civil servants from any practices that are corrupting and rent seeking in nature.

People have the notion that the drawings prepared by the thromde officials get approved rapidly so people prefer thromde officials to make their infrastructure drawings, Passang Dorji added. “It is totally a conflict of interest.”

The turnaround time for approval of drawings by the thromde was also discussed during the meeting. If the drawing is according to the required standard, then the approval shouldn’t take more than three weeks.

The thromde’s meeting with some 26 private architects, structural and electrical engineers is expected to make the private architects and engineers aware of the rules and regulations and avoid conflict of interest.

He added that civil servants are governed by the BCSR and they are aware of the rules and regulations, while the thromde officials were also informed and reminded that it is unethical to get involved in any kind of work that is rent seeking in nature.

“All drawings should be prepared by private professionals and to get it verified, scrutinised and approved by city officials in line with the relevant rules and regulations,” he said.

He urged the participants to inform the agency concerned of any rent seeking and corrupt activities by a city official so that a clean system is in place and the public are served better.

Thromde officials and the participants also deliberated on monitoring and countersigning by the respective architect or engineers at various levels of construction.

The participants pointed out that currently the role of architects or engineers end after the drawing is approved by the thromde.

Another participant said that there is no monitoring and follow up by the professional concerned during the construction phase.

“The building owners face lots of challenges in interpreting the drawing incase of any anomalies,” the participant said.

Therefore, the participants said that there is a need for the concerned architect/engineers to regularly monitor the construction and progress to ensure consistency of construction as per the approved drawing.

Besides the revision of the current drawing checklist, the participants suggested introducing a tax on all individual drawings and designs, creating awareness to private professionals on laws, rules and regulations and usage of construction materials,

The participants also expressed that it would be helpful to private professionals if they are updated on government policies frequently and if they are provided training on building rules, development control regulations and construction materials.

The participants were also briefed on moral responsibilities and professional ethics, creative designing and drawings, that includes prominent featuring of traditional architecture.

Passang Dorji said that the thromde regards the contribution of all participants involved in the designing, construction and implementation of infrastructures within  Thimphu city.

“The roles played by the participants responsibly and professionally contribute significantly in the development of the city,” he added. “Therefore, the thromde seeks to enhance the cooperation and partnership with participants at all levels.

Works and human settlement’s director of the Department of Human Settlement, Karma Sonam, said that he is against thromde architects and engineers working for private individuals as the thromde only approves the design or drawings of  infrastructure. “They shouldn’t do it because there is a conflict of interest.”

Karma Sonam said that he personally feels that it is okay for architects and engineers working in other government sectors to work for private individuals when it comes to piecemeal projects like the drawing for a residential house. However, office hours should not be used for private work, he said.

“I feel it is okay because it enables the professionals to keep in touch with his or her profession and can also act as a practice.”

But Karma Sonam said that when it comes to major projects, an individual architect or engineer couldn’t take up the work, as they have to give in a lot of input. “They shouldn’t do.”

The ministry’s chief engineer with the engineering service division, Phub Rinzin, said that he does not know if government architects and engineers work for private individuals or firms but there is no record with the ministry of government architects or engineers working for private individuals and firms.

“We verify and check who is the architect, structural and electrical engineers, among others, after we receive the design from the dzongkhags. If we find that an architect or engineers from the government sector is involved in the private work then we don’t approve,” he said.

Dechen Tshomo

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