SINGAPORE — Raising the standards of the professional engineering sector, giving the Professional Engineers Board (PEB) more teeth in its regulatory roles, and making it easier for these Singapore professionals to go abroad. These were among the changes to the Professional Engineers Act that were passed in Parliament on Monday (Sept 11).
Mr Desmond Lee, Second Minister for National Development, highlighted the important role of professional engineers in designing and planning complex structures and machinery, supervising the construction of these structures, and in maintaining the safe operation of machinery.
The Act, last amended in 2005, provides a basis to hold these professional engineers legally accountable and, in turn, ensures public safety, he said.
The number of registered professional engineers has jumped 20 per cent since 2005 to around 3,900 today, while the number of licensed entities providing professional engineering services has grown from 76 to more than 200. Globalisation has brought in new players, Mr Lee noted.
To tackle these changing industry needs, the scope of the PEB will expand to include more development and advocacy work.
The board certifies professional engineers as being qualified and competent to undertake their work. With the changes, it will now be able to work with the Institute of Engineers and other industry associations to support the construction industry transformation map, for instance, as well as push for more digital engineering initiatives.
The board will now also have the power to appoint investigators to conduct more in-depth investigations for serious offences, such as allowing investigators to apply for warrants to search premises for evidence. It previously relied on statements and evidence provided by parties, who might sometimes not be “forthcoming” in their cooperation.
Under the new laws, it can now impose penalties of up to S$100,000 for serious infringements that carry public safety implications. Previously, it was able to either impose a fine up to S$20,000, or revoke the professional engineers’ licences to practise.
The greater flexibility to calibrate penalties according to the severity of infringements of the act, Mr Lee said, is in line with those of other specialised professions such as architects.
In other changes, Singapore-registered professional engineers looking to go abroad may now do so through mutual recognition arrangements with other countries.
Professional engineering firms are allowed to engage specialist professional engineers as consultants so that they can take on more complex projects, and builders may directly hire professional engineers to undertake low-risk professional engineering works related to their own projects.
Mr Lee said: “The proposed amendments will raise standards, help our professional engineers capture overseas opportunities, and provide a more pro-enterprise environment for local professional engineering firms and contractors.”
It would also put the PEB in “a stronger position to support the industry in its development, and to uphold high standards of professionalism”, he said.