Not every Engineer is a cost Engineer. A cost Engineer does not have a certificate as a degree from a school of study. It is not taught in our Engineering schools So any engineering graduate with the aptitude for cost appraisal is admitted into it’s professional body and qualified as a cost Engineer after passing through it’s certification process. Because of the insinificant numbers of certified cost Engineers in the Country today, costing functions in engineering projects, especially in Civil Engineering, are undertaken by the Civil Engineers who manage such projects. This is often the case in the lower level of project management where measurement and evaluation is quite easy. Here, issues of planning, estimating, scheduling and cost control are taken care of. For complicated projects like in oil and gas and the likes, where the basic engineering knowledge of the principle of rate derivations, quantity determination and item descriptions are insufficient to deal with, specialisation definitely comes to play. To be candid, almost all that the Engineers do at the lower level of cost appraisal can also be handled by the Quantity surveyors. Herein lies the quagmire of the battle of supremacy in Nigeria between the Bill of Engineering Measurement and Evaluation (BEME) and the Bill of Quantities (BOQ), as contract management tools.
The difference between the two is therefore this; while the Engineer is property schooled in the principle and practice of engineering designs, the Quantity surveyor is not.The issue of BOQ and BEME is really not the problem; it is a mindset of the quantity surveyors that having an HND or a B.Sc certificate in Quantity Surveying make them equivalent or even superior to the Engineer in terms of project management. It is comparable to the the draughtsman who’s job is well defined but can only work after the design work is completed. If draughtsmanship is offered as a course in the higher institution with
diploma and degrees certificates, they may as well just be thinking like the Quantity surveyors.
From the structure of engineering programmes, project designs and costing comes at the end of programme. By then, the basics of designs and costing would have been imparted. Specialisation in Engineering generally comes at the Masters degree level. This is the Engineering structure. That is why Masters degree is a requirement to become a Consultant in Nigeria. On the other hand, Quantity surveying in Nigeria may have been programmed to be a professional course but with boundaries strictly defined and restricted and therefore less versatile. Once you are certified by NIQS, you are deemed to practice the sphere of the billing. On the other hand, the Engineer is a general practitioner requiring specialisation. I am sure there are over thirty areas of specialisation in engineering; cost engineering being one of such.
I think we should look critically at this issue of specialisation. I see NSE as a body whose membership are majorly general practitioners of engineering. We need to study the structure of engineering in other civilised climes and decide whether to modify our system or not.
Let’s take a comparative and cursory look at our medical profession in Nigeria. An MBBS is a general medicine practitioner. He goes to speciailse and becomes a Consultant. There exists paramedics who compliment the work of the doctor. They have nurses, radiographers, pharmacist, dentists, etc. These are professional in their own right. They also specialised but are not as combative as our dear Quantity Surveyors. For now, we work relatively peaceful with the Estate Surveyors and Valuers, the Land Surveyors, the Architects and the Builders.We all co-exist in the building industry. Only the case of the Quantity surveyor is different.
The problem, I think, is not that they are more vast in cost estimation than the Engineers. They know that very well. I think it is a survival instinct. The Quantity surveyor suddenly found themselves in an area where the Engineer strives and so have decided to discredit the engineering function of cost appraisal in order to gain relevance. This is prevalent only in the building industry where details is required of the bills because of numerous small cost items inherent in building projects.
An important point to note in this pervasive argument is that the Quantity surveyor is hardly part of the stategic decision making when projects are conceptualised. I may be wrong here. It is only at the tactical stages, when details are required is when Quantity Surveyors called in to play a role, which ordinarily, the Engineer can do, depending on the schedule in the particular organisation. Succinctly put, whereas while the quantity surveyor cannot function without the Engineer, the Engineer can function creditably well without the QS. The Engineer has been trained to do even greater works than the QS can handle. For organisational and professional compactibility, the two practices have been designed to complement one another. The expected compactibility has not been as desired hence the fracas in the industries where both operate. That is why in core Engineering Ministries in Nigeria like Works, Power and Energy, Water resources and Transportation, Bill of Engineering measurement and evaluation (BEME) is the official bill document. On the other hand, in the Ministry of housing, where graduates of environmental studies mostly practice, the Bill of Quantities (BOQ) is the bill document. In the private sector however, the BEME and the BOQ is used interchangeably and the argument of the suitability of each of these bill documents for effective project management, is more pronounced.
RECOMMENDED WAY FORWARD.
Can there be a meeting point between the Engineer and the QS ?. Let’s examine a rare possibility. Let the QS first become as associate member of the Nigerian Institute of Appraisal and Cost Engineers and and then be converted to cost Engineers after taking and passing all the prescribed professional examinations. Similar window is equally opened to general Engineering practitioners. When we now have both Engineer and Quantity surveyors specialising at a higher level as cost Engineers, the battle would have been fought and won. It is only then can we speak the same language. Definitely, the QS is not a cost Engineer and so the meeting point on a hierarchical level is skewed.
It is imperative therefore for Engineering in Nigeria to strengthen the it’s specialisation program with each discipline within the Engineering family and having well defined specialisation policy, and designing its independent certification process. Specialisation will enable and surely facilitate the inclusion of Quantity Surveyors in the relevant specialised body with same certification will Engineers and other qualified professionals.
Until such a time that this system is accepted and put to practice, the unending debate of the suitability or otherwise of the BEME and BOQ as project management tools will remain unabated.
Comments are welcomed please.
Engr A.O.Onyokoko FNSE,
Director, Civil Engineering/New Lines,
Nigerian Railway Corporation, Ebute-Metta, Lagos.