Investigations on Construction Frauds without Quantity Surveying Experts a Dupe!
Posted on September 25th, 2016

Dr. Chandana Jayalath

Quantity surveyors, in its present day construction industry, analyze cost components of construction projects in a scientific way and apply the results of such analysis to a variety of financial and economic problems confronting the developer and the designer. Given the large amount of money associated with building projects, the value for money gained by using standardized building information, combined with budgetary control expertise has made quantity surveying an important role within the construction industry. In nutshell, the role of the quantity surveyor has expanded over times. Beyond the main financial-based concerns in a traditional cost-value system, it now encompasses knowledge of costs, values as well as contractual and commercial matters, claims and disputes. In reality, if the predicted cost is exceeded by the actual costs then the viability of the project may vanish, possibly leaving the client bankrupt, the building abandoned and resources wasted, disputes arisen. This is why the importance of deploying qualified quantity surveyors has become so significant than ever since in the history, predominantly in the state sector undertaking large scale foreign funded projects where the funds are generally taken back via ‘loophole’ engineering. For example, the Southern Expressway project experienced a 6.8 Billion Rs claim against then the government and whether this money has been already paid or not to the claimant is not known. At a time the government is struggling over and probing the finance related issues in connection with large scale mega projects, no one can object to any expertise indispensable for speedy resolutions. I am pretty sure that quantity surveying inputs will definitely act in a lubricating function to ease out the backlog and add a great value in the process of investigations.

Giving due respect to all chartered quantity surveyors in Sri Lanka, let me quote for the purpose of discussion, the graduate quantity surveyors who started passing out from the University of Moratuwa in the year 1992 after completing a full time four years internal honors degree program funded by public money. Unfortunately, not a single so graduated has ever been able to enter into the state sector position similar to other allied professionals, due to cold mafia in the sector for financial matters untamable. Then, it is time to find the answer to the question of why the public should pay for a degree course if their products are unimportant for state projects in Sri Lanka? It is high time we revealed the bitter truth behind this menace and whose want has been undermining the positioning of quantity surveyors in the state sector.

For example, the Financial Crimes Investigation Division, known as FCID being a law enforcement agency tasked within Sri Lanka for financial crime investigations and law enforcement is one such entity that should obtain the services of qualified, chartered and experienced quantity surveyors. I wonder how FCID righteously protect those who abide the law without them on board. Construction frauds, malpractices, errors and omissions, inaccuracies, inefficiencies and obscurities are typically the cases of a nature that require intellectual skills and complex detection including contracts review, analysis, interpretation and judgment, particularly when misappropriation of construction of public housing funds has been notorious for the last couple of years.

Bribery Commission is yet another entity where quantity surveying should be a frequent function as long as they are related to construction contract awards, measurement, certification and payment. Though in1994 the Act no.19 created the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption, I could not come across the function of technical auditing and the forensic delay analysis has been identified to be key functions. The Commission consist of three members, two of whom shall be retired Judges of the Supreme Court or of the Court of Appeal and one of whom shall be a  person with wide experience relating to the investigation of crime and law enforcement. I wonder this person does require possessing a technical background. I must say, if the intention of the committee is to ensure the compliance of financial discipline in Public Corporations and other Semi Governmental bodies in which the Government of Sri Lanka has a financial stake, there should be professionals in-house equipped with the necessary tools and means to deal with intricate commercial and contractual issues.

Committee of public enterprise, known as COPE also consists of 31 Members reflecting the party composition in the House established under the Standing Order 126 at the beginning of each Parliamentary Session The duty of this Committee is to examine the accounts of the Public Corporations and of any Business Undertaking vested in the Government and have the power to summon before them and question any person, call for and examine any paper, book, record or other documents and to have access to stores and property. While the Public Accounts Committee exercises oversight in the financial performance of Government Institutions, the Committee on Public Enterprises is to ensure the observance of financial discipline in Public Corporations and other Semi Governmental bodies. The duty of the Committee is to report to Parliament on accounts examined, budgets and estimates, financial procedures, performance and management of Corporations and other Government Business Undertakings. Who does them all is a matter of grave concern. Aftermath, the accounts of these organizations are audited by the Auditor-General and form the basis of the investigations of the Committee. It has the power to summon the relevant officials and such other people as it thinks fit to obtain evidence and call for documents. As far as I know, the Auditor General Department has no single graduate or chartered quantity surveyor on board.

In any developed country, in the Gulf region or even in the former Soviet region, most of which are emerging economies, they have cadres in the state sector for quantity surveyors, with clearly demarcated job specifications. Quantity Surveyors in these countries have been largely involved in policy making, strategy modeling as well as invigilating and investigative functions for governments before embarking their world renowned projects. I have not come across such an opportunity in Sri Lanka for these professionals to serve in the state sector and would like to conclude, though unwillingly, any investigation on construction related abuses without quantity surveying experts is a dupe that anything else.

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