Guardian Report: Project costing pits quantity surveyors against engineers

Months after a disagreement between estate surveyors and engineers in Nigeria over the valuation of plant, equipment and machinery (PEM) ruffled feathers in the built environment, professionals in the sector are back in the trenches. Unlike the previous case, where the Estate Surveyors Registration Board of Nigeria (ESVARBON) and the Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN) were the dramatis personae, the main actors this time, are quantity surveyors and engineers.
The bone of contention is validity in the use of the Bill of Engineering Measurement and Evaluation (BEME) in project costing rather than the Bill of Quantities (BOQ). It is also a battle for the Naira and Kobo in the specific area.The brewing disagreement is threatening construction harmony with parties not willing to relax claims over project costing.

Already, quantity surveyors have sponsored a bill in the National Assembly, seeking to replace BEME with BOQ as obtained in other climes.The proposed bill seeks to streamline the duties of engineers to design and construction only. It will also empower quantity surveyors to be in charge of the taking off and preparation of the bills, certification and general project management of all engineering projects.

If the bill is enacted into law, BEME will cease to be operational, while BOQ becomes the operating bill document.Also, engineers’ job would be constricted and quantity surveyor will become officially the valuer of all engineering projects.Furthermore, the quantity surveyor becomes the project manager of all engineering projects.According to the argument being put forward before the lawmakers, engineers and BEME were said to be responsible for corrupt practices in the construction industry.

In other words, quantity surveyors believe that quantity surveying is a borrowed course in engineering faculties, meaning that engineers are not experts in measurement and valuation of project items.
But engineers on their part said the quantity surveyors’ contention is not for professional competence but of control.

They are calling on the Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN) and Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE), to rise up to defend engineers’ role on BEME, certification and project management of Engineering projects in Nigeria. According to them, once a dog is given a bad name, it becomes easy to kill it.

“ NIQS is telling the whole world that the way Engineering is being practiced in Nigeria with the use of BEME as a management tool in the construction industry, corruption is encouraged and indeed enshrined into the system. “We should not forget that before the advent of the procurement act, procurement was domiciled in engineering departments. The same song of corruption was sang and the L law became convinced and today, we have procurement as a separate department outside Engineering in the MDAs in Nigeria.Engineers must therefore articulate and present a very strong paper to counter the seemingly good argument presented by NIQS.

“The quantity surveyors have chosen such a time when it seems there is a crack in NSE. Some regions are planning to pull out of the main professional body to form a parallel one if their grievances are not resolved speedily. “The quantity surveyors are definitely not unaware of this commotion in the Engineering house occasioned by the botched EGM earlier this year. “It has, therefore, become pertinent that we put aside, albeit interim, all issues that may tend to pull us apart and jointly fight this crucial battle”, they said.

But quantity surveyors are already receiving tacit support from Governor of Kaduna State, Mallam Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai, whose administration has outlawed the use of BEME for all construction projects in the state. The governor, who described the document as alien to international procurement standards, also urge the Federal and State Governments to denounce the use of BEME and ensure that national procurements for infrastructure are at par with global standards with the use of “Bills of Quantities” as the exclusive document for costing of projects.

El-Rufai who is a Fellow of the Nigerian Institute of Quantity Surveyors noted that the current practice in the Construction Industry where designers are also the cost advisers was wrong, insisting that such a practice was not transparent and should be stopped in Nigeria, if the nation truly wishes to move forward.

Speaking to The Guardian on the issue, a fellow of Nigerian Institute of Quantity Surveyors (NIQS), Gabriel Olanrewaju, said BEME was introduced by Nigeria engineers to take charge of projects from procurement till execution. According to him, there is nowhere in the world where they would do roads with BEME.He stressed that the present administration was elected on its promise to fight corruption and that quantity surveyors perceive corruption in BEME.

Tracing its origin to the colonial era, where civil servants in public works department were allowed to maintenance, he said, it is no longer necessary with the present circumstances. For instance, it is made up of three phases; the concept and the design, the planning and the tendering as well as the final assemblage where you implement.The same person will do the design, the concept, planning and award, monitoring and handing over , so corruption is there. So, it is only one contractor doing everything and as such it would be easy to manipulate things.

However, if you involve, architects, quantity surveyors and civil engineer, there will be no rooms for manipulations. “Go to Julius Berger and other private contractors, you will see the quantity surveyors there doing a very strategic work for them. But when you go the ministry, it is the civil engineer.

Olanrewaju stressed that quantity surveyor are responsible for preparation of Bills of Quantities for both building and civil engineering works in the United Kingdom as BEME is only known to Nigeria and this fight will be the beginning of the end of BEME in Nigeria.“Even America don’t do road construction with BEME, but with Bill of Quantities. Nowhere in the world do they use corruption. So, that government policy then should be expunged because it is not relevant again.

When you use BEME for contract negotiation, the price is always high unlike BOQ.“Only one person cannot manage a project, otherwise there would be manipulations”, he added. Supporting, the chairman of Lagos State Chapter of NIQS, Ayuba Akere, said by virtue of the training of different professionals in the built environment, all of them know their roles and responsibilities.The quantity surveyors, he said, are to evaluate the designs by engineers and cost it but engineers are saying they want to design and do the costing.

“That is not their training and we have realized that with introduction of BEME, it is very fraudulent because things that should be properly measured are not measured , they just allot figures.“ Where as, if you look at quantity surveyors’ document, they are properly measured such that any independent person can cross check and say this quantity that are here are correct and get the total amount.

“That is the basic training of quantity surveyors but the engineers are trying to take that up as part of their own and they are not doing it in a proper way it should be done”, he added. Akere said quantity surveyors are against BEME because it is only in Nigeria that you will hear of it. “ Quantity surveyors have documents that are recognised world-wide and we have a standard method of measurement which if you go to another country it is known.

“Whatever we do here will correspond to things they are doing elsewhere but it is only in Nigeria that you will hear of BEME. “It is just for fraudulent practices and that is what we are complaining about. “Our own role is to be fair in adjudication of cost. So if you are saying something that is not right and at the end of the day it is going to rubbish our own profession, then we need to voice out.

“They don’t want the quantity surveyors, they are saying they want to do the costing themselves and that is why they are preventing quantity surveyors from doing engineering jobs”, he said. Akere stressed that quantity surveying is not an art as espoused by engineers but also a science , hence engineers should concentrate on designing.

“ They have left their core duties of designing and that is why we are having collapse buildings left and right , that is why we are having collapsed infrastructure left and right, they are interested in the money now, not in their core responsibilities which is design, why don’t they leave the job of costing to those who are trained properly to do that. “There should not have been issues, no matter the knowledge we have in engineering, we cannot go out and say we are engineers.

“We don’t do that but we are taught about , we did courses about engineering, the whole idea is for us to know what they are doing, so that when they passed on their drawing to us, we are able to interpret it properly but it is not enough for us to claim that we are the engineers.
“In the course of their own studies, they have taught them some elements of quantity surveying just so that when we present out documents, they are able to understand it and interpret it.

“It is not enough for them to claim that they are quantity surveyors. “Because they cannot use our documents because they are not trained in it, they have coined out their own, which they now called BEME and which is of no use or relevant other than simply for corrupt practices.“ It is as simply as that and that is why quantity surveyors are kicking against it. “When you said you have professionals in the country and they are recognized by an Act and yet we have people who are doing things in the wrong way , how then do we justify that we are there in the country to defend our nation properly?

“That is the little area we can contribute then let us contribute properly. “When we are doing infrastructural works, quantity surveyors are supposed to be involved but you are kicking us aside just because of corruption. “They are now claiming to be every thing, their core duty of design they have left it and that is why we are having collapse buildings left and right. They should focus on bring proper designs to curtail building collapse rather than fighting on costing, it is not their jobs”, he added.

But former chairman of NSE, Apapa Branch, Dr. Ombugadu Garba, said the argument being canvased by the quantity surveyors centered more on control than the interest of the profession. According to him, the problem is that most of the quantity surveyors are in the government and they have an interest.He, however, stressed that it does not guarantee anybody to start saying what is not.

“For instance, how can Quantity Surveyors give out materials for building? Can they evaluate materials for building? What did they know about strength of materials, structures that would hold buildings? “What I understood over the years is that, people clamoured to have something, not necessarily because they are expertise, but just because they want to have control. That is the essence of this whole clamouring.

How can you say that BEME is now outdated and BOQ is different? Every profession has standards. For example, their argument is that BEME is encouraging corruption, whether you use BOQ, or BEME, whether you have a set standard for evaluating building, people with corrupt tendencies would at their convenience and disposition influence such standards. So the issue of element of corruption should not be the cause of BEME, that line of argument is faulty.

Elucidating further, Dr Garba said Bill of Engineering Measurement and Evaluation (BEME) is quite different from BOQ because BOQ does not tell details on the quality of material, specification of material and so on. So whatever line of argument they are making, they should let the interest of the profession be the guide.

Also, the immediate past President of the Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE), Adekunle Mokuolu, said the debate about BEME is like telling a journalist that you don’t agree that he should be using Biro to write that it must be a feather pen. According to him, BEME is an expression of scientific measurement in designed projects.

“So we are not at loggerhead with quantity surveyors. We are not joining issues with them. It is like a girl asking a tailor, why are you using tape rule that he should use ruler. “I used to tell them let every body practice in his area of competence, the most important thing we are talking about in Nigeria is that our country should be developed according to knowledge not according to the money we want to make.

In a profession, money is not the primary issue , making money is the bye products of professional services that you have rendered according to your code of ethics. “ I told the quantity surveyors if you want to be able prepare that document , you can come for training where you will be certified. And we don’t use BEME for buildings, their profession is only constrained to buildings.

You go and check any bill of quantity for building, when it comes for electrical, go and look at what they put in for plumbing. They just say provisional, where as in BEME, the person designing it already knows the things required to fix the bolts , to fix an elbow joint and to fix a pipe.

He knows whether it is Crane or ladder that he is going to use. They are not trained to do all these. So when they said BEME, they see it as it is another thing, BEME is nothing rather then the title that we have decided to give a measurement so that the promoter of the project will see all the details.

The other thing is that project in civil engineering are multi locational, if you are talking about Lagos –Ibadan expressway for instance, they have different locations. Sometimes, you make provisions for supervisory staff, because most of the times, you are dealing with a virgin land, you need to build houses for the surveyors since they are the very first professionals in the bush. Then the engineers will come, many times, they will always complain that engineers are making provisions for them selves. We are one family in the built environment, the most important thin we should focus on is not BEME or Bill of Quantity, BEME is scientific measurement, Bill of Quantities is arithmetic measurement.

They are actually two different things, if I excavate thee soil for example, in their own case, he does not know the property of the soil, it does not know how to interpret the test result from the laboratory test, so how can you know say they should cancel BEME. Another thing, they are making a case that BEME is only peculiar to Nigeria, it is international, who said you cannot domesticate your own instrument of practice..

Nigeria engineers are not quarreling with anybody, whether you are an engineer, quantity surveyor or a doctor, any foreigner coming to the country will asked where are the professionals in the built environment, we should, therefore, ensure that the infrastructure will enhance the enjoyment of life “ Nobody can outlaw BEME. Any knowledge that is not translated into physical development is rubbish. Let us continue to deceive ourselves.

“ If they want to make money, le them go and sell onions and tomatoes, they should not practice any profession. If you want to practice, it must be practiced according to knowledge, the ethics and rules of the profession”, he added.

By Bertram Nwannekanma

ENGINEERS AND QUANTITY SURVEYORS. BROUHAHA: Is there a possible meeting point ?