Engineering Measurement, Evaluation Not Supported By Law – Esenwa
Posted: 07/Mar/2018

Freddy Ogugua Esenwa is a quantity surveyor and Director of Physical Planning, Bells University of Technology, Ogun State.  In a chat with NKASIOBI OLUIKPE  clarified the following.

What is a typical site day like for a quantity surveyor?

For projects that are under foundation, you must be very keen and clear, take measurements and keep to records because once something is underground and covered, you will not see it. So, you must always be available on site 24/7. You do not assume that the contractor has done X and Y.
It also depends on the letter of appointment that you are given. If you are appointed as a residential quantity surveyor, then, you are supposed to be there 24/7; but if as a quantity surveyor, you come there once in a month or occasionally to see what is happening. For you to be able to make accurate judgement, you must be on site at all times. When work begins on a project, you should be there at all times to ensure that the contractor is doing what is right.

What do you see as the key challenges faced by quantity surveyors on a daily basis?

Though the country is said to have exited recession, before then, the recession affected the flow of the indices. You cannot be sure of what happens on a daily basis.
Most of the materials are imported in hard currency, which are not readily available and that makes prices unstable. When prices are not stable, you cannot predict. You cannot say you will build anything for any price because you cannot predict the price.

Have you ever had course to deal with disputes over valuation work you carried out?

It happens when you have a greedy contractor who wants to cheat; you will have such things arising. When you have a Bill of Quantity based on which a contract was awarded, there shouldn’t be any dispute.
Valuation also allows for valuing materials on and off site as long as you can sight those materials where they are kept off-site. For materials on site, it is difficult because you can’t see them.
Sometimes, contractors divert monies meant to be used to procure materials. When the work on site is not in conformity with the specification of what you have got, you will pay for it. Dispute will arise; you have to explain to the client, if he insists, then you go to arbitration. The contract condition allows you to go to arbitration.

How do you manage price escalation when working on a project?

What we advise clients to do is to say within the availability of cash flow, procure materials that can vary in price, but store them safely and ensure you have insurance, to remove a likely damage by fire or theft. In the past, we used to have what is called materials advance, but the current conditions of contract do not even allow you that magnitude.
If you know prices are going to vary, contractors should have the capability to go and source money and do the contract. If he does that, he must then add the cost of sourcing the money, those ones should have been included in the original price.

Engineers justify their Bill of Engineering Measurement and Evaluation (BEME) by saying that quantity surveyors know nothing about costing of complex construction projects. Is that correct?

The law does not support BEME. I studied in the University of Abertay, in Dundee, Scotland. In that university, we did civil engineering measurement as part of our work. I worked there from 1979 to 1981 when I came back.
I have measured complex engineering projects; I worked on roads and hospital projects with complex engineering equipment installed. The bill of quantity aspect of the mechanical engineering measurement was completely holistic.
Part of the problem is also on training. When you go on strike, sometimes, you are not able to cover the syllabus. But most people can conveniently handle every aspect of engineering project because we did study them. That generalization is wrong.
Pick up any civil engineering work in the UK, you will not see anybody measuring anything without a quantity surveyor. These days, you don’t even need to be a quantity surveyor to do measurement because you have softwares that can even measure. So, it’s basically about your training.
You can ask me why road works in Nigeria are usually infinite. It is because they award the contracts in perpetuity. The work starts and nobody knows what the cost will be. In the UK before you start any road work, you will do engineering survey, soil survey, alignment, even hold public hearing.
They have introduced a quantity surveying academy in the NIQS office. The academy is to help retrain people in some of these areas where they are deficient.  The fact is that, as a quantity surveyor, it is repugnant to say you cannot measure civil engineering measurement.

How much do you know about land valuation and property tax?

As a quantity surveyor in the UK, we also did electives in planning and estate management. You have balanced training as a quantity surveyor because I did elective course in estate management and planning. For me, you can go ahead in getting more knowledge in what you are doing or just limiting yourself.  But if you are going to do property development, you will be able to study documents produced by estate managers and agents, if you don’t understand what they are saying, you cannot progress.
In my training as a quantity surveyor, I did town planning and university planning. Everything is perception; some out of laziness may not have gone beyond being the little that the profession allows them to be.
In everything people go into specialisation. You don’t even need to be a lawyer to understand legal intricacies. As a Quantity Surveyor, we studied law of contract, law of administration, principle of law etc. because you draft contract agreement for people.

What is the difference between a contractor quantity surveyor and a consultant quantity surveyor?

There is no much difference. It is about the bias. As a consultant quantity surveyor, you are supposed to be neutral, that is, you are neither for nor against your clients. But you must also protect their interest.
As a quantity surveyor basically, you are supposed to be neutral, but when you are a contractor quantity surveyor, you are biased towards ensuring your contractor gets more money.
So, it is then you will be working to ensure that you get more money. It is not that you throw away your ethics, but your major interest will be to ensure that your contractor makes more money. But as a consultant quantity surveyor, you are supposed to show a balance between the contractor and the client. As a contractor quantity surveyor, you must see from the perception of the man that employed you.

How do you think the standard of the practice can improve in Nigeria and what’s your advice to young potential quantity surveyors?

Outside this country, people follow the norms. What happens in the industry is that the Quantity Surveyors Registration Board and the Nigeria Institute of Quantity Surveyors are doing a lot of things to ensure that people meet up with the required standards.
Part of which is organizing professional courses to earn credits without which you will not be given a certificate to practice. Your certificate for practice can be denied for one year until you attain those maximum points.  So every year, you have a certificate, because you must undertake a number of courses to be able to remain as a registered quantity surveyor.
In addition, they have introduced an academy to ensure that people who want to improve on their skills, do not just remain on the shelf. Like I told you, measurement is not the idea now because everybody can do measurement. You have a lot of applications in the market right now to improve your services as a quantity surveyor.
For the younger ones, they should calm down, learn the ropes and whatever happens, they will definitely get there. Make yourself available to the new innovation that is available in the market and learn to always improve yourself by attending workshops and reading because these days, there are new ways of doing things every day

By Nkasiobi Oluikpe