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“Architects Shun their New Law”

GOITSEMODIMO MANOWE

I have many questions that demand answers!

Who are these self-proclaimed “architects” in Botswana, the WeekendPost keeps on writing about who are in growing acrimony with the Architects’ Registration Council (ARC)? Why is their identity concealed, what are their academic credentials? Are they registered professionals and how many of them? Does the writer have proof that they are registered and are entitled to be called architects? Does she or he have vested interest?

When did these “architects” wake up to the reality that regulation is here and start organising to critique a piece of legislation that is nearly 10 years old? Surely it cannot be the more than 190 architectural professionals (list increasing) who currently appear on the register produced by the ARC and have found it fitting for their credentials to be accredited by the body established by an Act of Parliament. Yet the WeekendPost makes it seem like this is so- architects shunning their own law! Really?

 From the content of this article, the writer of the WeekendPost is incapable of comprehending the all-important difference between individuals masquerading as architects and those legitimately entitled by law to call themselves, practice and hold themselves as such.  Would the writer, for an example, call anybody challenging the relevant Act and not registered by the Health Professions Council in Botswana, a doctor? Why is the Weekend Post according those few individuals the credibility and legitimacy they don’t deserve? What happened to the questionnaire produced by the Weekend Post, on the same issues, that the ARC happily answered long ago and when will it be published for the benefit of the public?

The writer goes on: “It has come to the attention of this publication that excessive powers have been vested in the Architects’ Registration Council”. Precisely what powers does this Act give to the ARC that are excessive and different from those given to other similar regulatory bodies like the Engineers’ Registration Board (ERB), the Quantity Surveyors’ Registration Council (QSRC) or Botswana Institute of Chartered Accountant (BICA) for example?  Prior to regulation, engineering technicians were masquerading and practicing as professional engineers, nurses as doctors, accounting technicians as accountants, etc.

They no longer do and there are regulatory bodies to protect the integrity of those professions, in the national interest. Why should architecture be any different? If this is a mistake, then God forbid, the country must revisit all its laws regulating such professions. Why are we not hearing of a ridiculous argument, in the papers, that a nurse is to be permitted to act as a doctor simply because she or he has donkey years of experience and there is no record of a person who has died under their care when there was a shortage of doctors in the country and there was no Health Professionals Act? Should engineering technicians (not registered for that matter) be clamoring to be treated equally to professional engineers?
 

Would that be in the national interest? It would be interesting to know which stadium or hospital project in Botswana has been successfully implemented under the professional oversight, supervision and contract administration of a technician let alone a draftsperson? The ARC would be very interested in concrete examples.

Price fixing: Just how can price fixing (assuming he or she means lack of competition) exists where there is room for fee bidding. Fact: The framework that regulates the delivery of architectural service is available, to ensure value-for-money and to eliminate undercutting at fees that cannot sustain proper professional service, allows for competitive fee offers. Like with the Public Procurement and Disposal Act, such competitive fee offers must still be evaluated to determine if they are rational, because there comes a point where a competitive fee offer cannot result in value-for-money and may directly result in short-cuts in the delivery of professional services to the detriment of the client. The self-proclaimed architects obviously do not have a clue about the said framework and how the ethics of the profession work.

What the proponents of this misinformation about “price fixing” really want is a situation where a self-proclaimed technologist could continue to undercut an architect and claim, to an unsuspecting and innocent client, the ability to offer the same quality of service at a cheaper price. That is not value-for-money and that is not in the public interest! In that connection, public interest is not always and simply that of a client or owner of a building. It is also the interest of end-users and national interest regarding occupational health, safety, environmental issues, etc-things that the lowest fee does not always or necessarily guarantee, especially in a commercial environment.

The article on monopoly: Are there not enough draftspersons, technologists or architects in this country to compete amongst themselves such that this would create monopoly of architectural services by any group or category? What is wrong with competition exclusively between individuals of the same qualifications, professional standing and competency levels as in medicine, law, engineering and accounting, for example?

Is this not the foundation for our own Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Act? What precisely is wrong with the provision, in the Act, to standardize the tariff of fees that is cost-based, like in Kenya, Zambia, Tanzania, and many other countries in order to maximize competition on merit (maximize value for money) and where there is an option to that tariff table and for clients to invite competitive fee offers based on hourly rates, as the tariff provides? Does this law prevent competition between draftspersons or technologists at the exclusion of architects where building size and complexity is within the expected and established competency levels of such professionals?

The answer to this question, and for the knowledge of the general public, is a big NO! Is a draftsperson as competent as a technologist or architect? Is this the logic? Here readers can judge for themselves! How has the internationally adopted principle of alignment of the duty of care and skill to levels of training and qualifications, in any profession, ever impacted negatively on the economy of any country and society, and which country serves as an example? Is this not the principle that underpins the national qualifications framework, here in Botswana and elsewhere?

The article on fees for direct appointment; Fact: In terms of the current tariff, a building costing P180,000 or less would attract a fee, for the entire service from inception to end of construction on site (i.e. 7 work-stages in total), of P13, 302-75 to be precise. The portion of this fee, up and including submission to Town or City Council would be P5,321-10, and the client is under no obligation to appoint anyone for the entire service and need not do so. But then why would any client take this route, at all, if one can pay only P2,629-00 to a draftsperson for 8-hour work, up to and including technical documentation (all stages prior to construction documentation; stages 1 & 4) based on hourly rates, as the tariff provides, and seeing that an architect or technologist is not necessary, for that small building, and partial services may be selected? Is this not comparable to what people have been paying all along, by selecting the services and professionals they really need and can afford and omitting the rest? Let us be serious: how, then, has this tariff (both project cost and time based) negatively affected affordable housing, driven up costs, impoverished the ordinary Motswana or denied the public access to architectural services?

Who is misleading who, and is this not deliberate misinformation for personal gain and hidden agenda- the true agenda and open secret being that self-proclaimed technologists who have, by default, been practicing as architects should automatically be declared as such and draftspersons somehow also get dragged into the argument to help the cause? The Act permits anybody with the requisite knowledge and skill to apply for any category of registration. If such people possess the qualifications to register and practice as architects, why have they not come forward to apply for registration in that category?

Titles of degrees or diplomas are not important- the self-proclaimed professionals know that but would rather mislead the public to believe that they are competent and do not have to be subjected to the rigour of regulation. The public must believe that a draftsperson or someone just a notch above does not need oversight on large and complex projects. The public is also made to believe that a person trained over a period of 3 years of study (entry level for technologist) and sometimes through a City and Guilds diploma program deserves equal recognition to a degree holder from UB who has gone through 5 years of full time study; – soon to become 6 years. That is simply preposterous and a threat to the integrity of the profession.

Representation in the ARC: It is claimed that there in not enough public representation and the Architects Association of Botswana (AAB) is conflicted. Fact: The Act provides, to some degree, and not for wholesale self-regulation. Any institute that represents the majority of architectural professionals (architectural draftspersons and architectural technologists included), i.e. those registered by the ARC and recognized as professionals, elects 4 members to the Council. All that a rival institute has to do is prove that their membership outnumbers that of the one currently represented. The Minister (a public representative) appoints 2 members, one of whom does not have to be an architectural professional.

The Human Resource Development Council (a public body) appoints 1 member. The Department of Building and Engineering Services (yet another public organization) has representation in the form of an ex-officio member. How much more can this become public and democratic? The WeekendPost story will be more interesting and beneficial to the nation if the host of questions above are answered and facts stated cleanly disputed.

Goitsemodimo S. Manowe is a registered and seasoned practicing architect. he is the founding Chairperson of the Architects’ Registration Council.  He writes in his personal capacity.

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Opinions

Can we cure ourselves from the cancer of corruption?

28th October 2020
DCEC DIRECTOR: Tymon Katholo

Bokani Lisa Motsu

“One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It’s simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we’ve been taken. Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back.” Carl Sagan

Corruption is a heavy price to pay. The clean ones pay and suffer at the mercy of people who cannot have enough. They always want to eat and eat so selfishly like a bunch of ugly masked shrews. I hope God forgives me for ridiculing his creatures, but that mammal is so greedy. But corruption is not the new kid on the block, because it has always been everywhere.

This of course begs the question, why that is so? The common answer was and still is – abuse and misuse of power by those in power and weak institutions, disempowered to control the leaders. In 1996, the then President of The World Bank, James D. Wolfensohn named the ‘C-Word’ for the first time during an annual meeting of the Bretton Woods Institutions. A global fight against corruption started. Transparency International began its work. Internal and external audits mushroomed; commissions of inquiry followed and ever convoluted public tender procedures have become a bureaucratic nightmare to the private sector, trying to fight red tape.

The result is sobering corruption today is worse than it was 25 years ago. There is no denying that strong institutions help, but how does it come that in the annual Transparency International Ranking the same group of countries tend to be on the top while another group of countries, many African among them, tend to be on the bottom? Before one jumps to simple and seductive conclusions let us step back a moment.

Wolfensohn called corruption a cancer that destroys economies like a cancer destroys a body. A cancer is, simplified, good cells in a body gone bad, taking control of more and more good cells until the entire body is contaminated and eventually dies. So, let us look at the good cells of society first: they are family ties, clan and tribe affiliation, group cohesion, loyalty, empathy, reciprocity.

Most ordinary people like the reader of these lines or myself would claim to share such values. Once we ordinary people must make decisions, these good cells kick in: why should I hire a Mrs. Unknown, if I can hire my niece whose strengths and weaknesses I know? If I hire the niece, she will owe me and support my objectives.

Why should I purchase office furniture from that unknown company if I know that my friend’s business has good quality stuff? If I buy from him, he will make an extra effort to deliver his best and provide quality after sales service? So, why go through a convoluted tender process with uncertain outcome? In the unlikely case my friend does not perform as expected, I have many informal means to make him deliver, rather than going through a lengthy legal proceeding?

This sounds like common sense and natural and our private lives do work mostly that way and mostly quite well.

The problem is scale. Scale of power, scale of potential gains, scale of temptations, scale of risk. And who among us could throw the first stone were we in positions of power and claim not to succumb to the temptations of scale? Like in a body, cancer cells start growing out of proportion.

So, before we call out for new leaders – experience shows they are rarely better than the old ones – we need to look at ourselves first. But how easy is that? If I were the niece who gets the job through nepotism, why should I be overly critical? If I got a big furniture contract from a friend, why should I spill the beans? What right do I have to assume that, if I were a president or a minister or a corporate chief procurement officer I would not be tempted?

This is where we need to learn. What is useful, quick, efficient, and effective within a family or within a clan or a small community can become counterproductive and costly and destructive at larger corporate or national scale. Our empathy with small scale reciprocity easily permeates into complacency and complicity with large scale corruption and into an acquiescence with weak institutions to control it.

Our institutions can only be as strong as we wish them to be.

I was probably around ten years old and have always been that keen enthusiastic child that also liked to sing the favourite line of, ‘the world will become a better place.’  I would literally stand in front of a mirror and use my mom’s torch as a mic and sing along Michael Jackson’s hit song, ‘We are the world.’

Despite my horrible voice, I still believed in the message.  Few years later, my annoyance towards the world’s corrupt system wonders whether I was just too naïve. Few years later and I am still in doubt so as to whether I should go on blabbing that same old boring line. ‘The world is going to be a better place.’ The question is, when?

The answer is – as always: now.

This is pessimistic if not fatalistic – I challenge Sagan’s outlook with a paraphrased adage of unknown origin: Some people can be bamboozled all of the time, all people can be bamboozled some of the time, but never will all people be bamboozled all of the time.

We, the people are the only ones who can heal society from the cancer of corruption. We need to understand the temptation of scale and address it. We need to stop seeing ourselves just a victim of a disease that sleeps in all of us. We need to give power to the institutions that we have put in place to control corruption: parliaments, separation of power, the press, the ballot box. And sometimes we need to say as a niece – no, I do not want that job as a favour, I want it because I have proven to be better than other contenders.

It is going to be a struggle, because it will mean sacrifices, but sacrifices that we have chosen, not those imposed on us.

Let us start today.

*Bokani Lisa Motsu is a student at University of Botswana

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Opinions

Accounting Officers are out of touch with reality

19th October 2020

Parliament, the second arm of State through its parliamentary committees are one of Botswana’s most powerful mechanisms to ensure that government is held accountable at all times. The Accounting Officers are mostly Permanent Secretaries across government Ministries and Chief Executive Officers, Director Generals, Managing Directors of parastatals, state owned enterprises and Civil Society.

So parliament plays its oversight authority via the legislators sitting on a parliamentary committee and Accounting Officers sitting in the hot chair.  When left with no proper checks and balances, the Executive is prone to abuse the arrangement and so systematic oversight of the executive is usually carried out by parliamentary committees.  They track the work of various government departments and ministries, and conduct scrutiny into important aspects of their policy, direction and administration.

It is not rocket science that effective oversight requires that committees be totally independent and able to set their own agendas and have the power to summon ministers and top civil servants to appear and answer questions. Naturally, Accounting Officers are the highest ranking officials in the government hierarchy apart from cabinet Ministers and as such wield much power and influence in the performance of government.  To illustrate further, government performance is largely owed to the strategic and policy direction of top technocrats in various Ministries.

It is disheartening to point out that the recent parliament committees — as has been the case all over the years — has laid bare the incompetency, inadequacy and ineptitude of people bestowed with great responsibilities in public offices. To say that they are ineffective and inefficient sounds as an understatement. Some appear useless and hopeless when it comes to running the government despite the huge responsibility they possess.

If we were uncertain about the degree at which the Accounting Officers are incompetent, the ongoing parliament committees provide a glaring answer.  It is not an exaggeration to say that ordinary people on the streets have been held ransom by these technocrats who enjoy their air conditioned offices and relish being chauffeured around in luxurious BX SUV’s while the rest of the citizenry continue to suffer. Because of such high life the Accounting Officers seem to have, with time, they have gotten out of touch with the people they are supposed to serve.

An example; when appearing before the recent Public Accounts Committee (PAC), Office of the President Permanent Secretary, Thuso Ramodimoosi, looked reluctant to admit misuse of public funds. Although it is clear funds were misused, he looked unbothered when committee members grilled him over the P80 million Orapa House building that has since morphed into a white elephant for close to 10 successive years. To him, it seems it did not matter much and PAC members were worried for nothing.

On a separate day, another Accounting officer, Director of Public Service Management (DPSM), Naledi Mosalakatane, was not shy to reveal to PAC upon cross-examination that there exist more than 6 000 vacancies in government. Whatever reasons she gave as an excuse, they were not convincing and the committee looked sceptical too. She was faltering and seemed not to have a sense of urgency over the matter no matter how critical it is to the populace.

Botswana’s unemployment rate hoovers around 18 percent in a country where majority of the population is the youth, and the most affected by unemployment. It is still unclear why DPSM could underplay such a critical matter that may threaten the peace and stability of the country.
Accounting Officers clearly appear out of touch with the reality out there – if the PAC examinations are anything to go by.

Ideally the DPSM Director could be dropping the vacancy post digits while sourcing funds and setting timelines for the spaces to be filled as a matter of urgency so that the citizens get employed to feed their families and get out of unemployment and poverty ravaging the country.
The country should thank parliamentary committees such as PAC to expose these abnormalities and the behaviour of our leaders when in public office. How can a full Accounting Officer downplay the magnitude of the landless problem in Botswana and fail to come with direct solutions tailor made to provide Batswana with the land they desperately need?

Land is a life and death matter for some citizens, as we would know.

When Bonolo Khumotaka, the Accounting Officer in the Ministry of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services, whom as a top official probably with a lucrative pay too appears to be lacking sense of urgency as she is failing on her key mandate of working around the clock to award the citizens with land especially those who need it most like the marginalised.  If government purports they need P94 billion to service land to address the land crisis what is plan B for government? Are we going to accept it the way it is?

Government should wake up from its slumber and intervene to avoid the 30 years unnecessary waiting period in State land and 13 years in Tribal land.  Accounting Officers are custodians of government policy, they should ensure it is effective and serve its purpose. What we have been doing over the years, has proved that it is not effective, and clearly there is a need for change of direction.

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Opinions

Is it possible to make people part of your business resilience planning after the State of Public Emergency?

12th October 2020

THABO MAJOLA

His Excellency Dr Mokgweetsi EK Masisi, the President of the Republic of Botswana found it appropriate to invoke Section 17 (1) of the Constitution of the Republic of Botswana, using the powers vested in him to declare a State of Public Emergency starting from the 2nd April 2020 at midnight.

The constitutional provision under Section 17 (2b) only provided that such a declaration could be up to a maximum of 21 days. His Excellency further invoked Section 93 (1) to convene an extra- ordinary meeting of Parliament to have the opportunity to consult members of parliament on measures that have been put in place to address the spread and transmission of the virus. At this meeting Members of Parliament passed a resolution on the legal instruments and regulations governing the period of the state of emergency, and extended its duration by six (6) months.

The passing of the State of Emergency is considered as a very crucial step in fighting the near apocalyptic potential of the Novel COVID-19 virus. One of the interesting initiatives that was developed and extended to the business community was a 3-month wage subsidy that came with a condition that no businesses would retrench for the duration of the State of Public Emergency. This has potentially saved many people’s jobs as most companies would have been extremely quick to reduce expenses by downsizing. Self-preservation as some would call it.

Most organisations would have tried to reduce costs by letting go of people, retreated and tried their best to live long enough to fight another day. In my view there is silver lining that we need to look at and consider. The fact that organisations are not allowed to retrench has forced certain companies to look at the people with a long-term view.

Most leaders have probably had to wonder how they are going to ensure that their people are resilient. Do they have team members who innovate and add value to the organisation during these testing times? Do they even have resilient people or are they just waiting for the inevitable end? Can they really train people and make them resilient? How can your team members be part of your recovery plan? What can they do to avoid losing the capabilities they need to operate meaningfully for the duration of the State of Public Emergency and beyond?

The above questions have forced companies to reimagine the future of work. The truth is that no organisation can operate to its full potential without resilient people. In the normal business cycle, new teams come on board; new business streams open, operations or production sites launch or close; new markets develop, and technology is introduced. All of this provides fresh opportunities – and risks.

The best analogy I have seen of people-focused resilience planning reframes employees as your organisation’s immune system, ready and prepared to anticipate risks and ensure they can tackle challenges, fend off illness and bounce back more quickly.  So, how do you supercharge your organizational immune system to become resilient?

COVID-19 has helped many organisations realize they were not as prepared as they believed themselves to be. Now is the time to take stock and reset for the future. All the strategies and plans prior to COVID-19 arriving in Botswana need to be thrown out of the window and you need to develop a new plan today. There is no room for tweaking or reframing. Botswana has been disrupted and we need to accept and embrace the change. What we initially anticipated as a disease that would take a short term is turning out to be something we are going to have to live with for a much longer time. It is going to be a marathon and therefore businesses need to have a plan to complete this marathon.

Start planning. Planning for change can help reduce employee stress, anxiety, and overall fear, boosting the confidence of staff and stakeholders. Think about conducting and then regularly refreshing a strategic business impact analysis, look at your employee engagement scores, dig into your customer metrics and explore the way people work alongside your behaviours and culture. This research will help to identify what you really want to protect, the risks that you need to plan for and what you need to survive during disruption. Don’t forget to ask your team members for their input. In many cases they are closest to critical business areas and already have ideas to make processes and systems more robust.

Revisit your organisational purpose. Purpose, values and principles are powerful tools. By putting your organisation’s purpose and values front and center, you provide clear decision-making guidelines for yourself and your organisation. There are very tough and interesting decisions to make which have to be made fast; so having guiding principles on which the business believes in will help and assist all decision makers with sanity checking the choices that are in front of them. One noticeable characteristic of companies that adapt well during change is that they have a strong sense of identity. Leaders and employees have a shared sense of purpose and a common performance culture; they know what the company stands for beyond shareholder value and how to get things done right.

Revisit your purpose and values. Understand if they have been internalised and are proving useful. If so, find ways to increase their use. If not, adapt them as necessities, to help inspire and guide people while immunizing yourself against future disruption. Design your employee experience. The most resilient, adaptive and high performing companies are made up of people who know each other, like each other, and support each other.

Adaptability requires us to teach other, speak up and discuss problems, and have a collective sense of belonging. Listening to your team members is a powerful and disruptive thing to do. It has the potential to transform the way you manage your organisation. Enlisting employees to help shape employee experience, motivates better performance, increases employee retention and helps you spot issues and risks sooner. More importantly, it gives employees a voice so you can get active and constructive suggestions to make your business more robust by adopting an inclusive approach.

Leaders need to show they care. If you want to build resilience, you must build on a basis of trust. And this means leaders should listen, care, and respond. It’s time to build the entire business model around trust and empathy. Many of the employees will be working under extreme pressure due to the looming question around what will happen when companies have to retrench. As a leader of a company transparency and open communication are the most critical aspects that need to be illustrated.

Take your team member into confidence because if you do have to go through the dreaded excise of retrenchment you have to remember that those people the company retains will judge you based on the process you follow. If you illustrate that the business or organization has no regard for loyalty and commitment, they will never commit to the long-term plans of the organisation which will leave you worse off in the end. Its an absolutely delicate balance but it must all be done in good faith. Hopefully, your organization will avoid this!

This is the best time to revisit your identify and train your people to encourage qualities that build strong, empathetic leadership; self-awareness and control, communication, kindness and psychological safety.  Resilience is the glue that binds functional silos and integrates partners, improves communications, helps you prepare, listen and understand. Most importantly, people-focused resilience helps individuals and teams to think collectively and with empathy – helping you respond and recover faster.

Article written by Thabo Majola, a brand communications expert with a wealth of experience in the field and is Managing Director of Incepta Communications.

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