Local engineers ditched government - Muketi

Veteran heavy Industry mechanical engineer Frederick Muketi hit at local engineers who raised tantrums over being deliberately excluded by the works ministry saying that they had ditched government in the first place when it needed them the most.

Muketi, who hails from Kenya and has worked in Namibia under the works ministry, also said the engineers were not ready for work when the government made calls for Kenyan and Zimbabwean engineers as recent as 2012.

“This government is in bad need of engineers. It is not true that the local engineers were already ready at that stage in 2012 when they were first taken. 

"The request (for) engineers came in 2010 and by the time the Zimbabwean engineers came in, it was a crash program,” he said. 

“There was the Tipeeg programme that needed a lot of professionals to support the government, and many engineers had run out from the government at independence so the government can outsource (them) and pay them better,” he added. 

Muketi says the situation became so drastic that government put in place structures under the Public Service Commission which made it hard for local engineers to be absorbed quickly.

“Some of us, like from Kenya when we graduated like in 1980 we could walk to any minister (in Namibia) and we could be taken the same day. 

"And also the challenge is, I said to my then permanent secretary, why would you blame us for not training your engineers when they are not available?” he asked. 

He said the few engineers that opened up to expatriate mentorship did not stay behind to work for the government, but instead would quickly slip between their fingers back into the lucrative pool of consultants.

“I (couldn’t) have somebody to touch on,” said Muketi. 

The process of having a structure in place by the Public Service (meant that) the number of engineers who had to be taken by the ministry of works and transport was very low. 

“Now that the Zimbabweans have come, structures are in place to maintain that same number of engineers including myself from the other countries so that the same number of engineers must be utilised,” he added.

He said in Kenya very few projects are given to consultants, thus implying that limiting the number of projects handed over to outsourced labour helps the government to attract engineers in the public sector.   

He said now that progress had been made to capacitate the mentoring of local talent, it is up to him and other expatriates to train internationally acceptable and professionally confident engineers, “before we go back to our countries.”

“Now the ministry of transport and works has put in place in-house training of engineers, in-house equipment like computers, design equipment and stuff. So now that is in place. 

"It’s good (that) the local engineers are ready now to work for the government because all the engineers that I have worked with I always encouraged them, don’t run away for money. 

"Try to work for your government; you will never be independent until you control engineering. If you keep running out into consultancy, the government is not in control of its processes,” he said.

He, however, lamented the exponential hike in the cost of projects, saying that it is because the government is not controlling them. 

“And whatever amount of money you pump in, people are selfish by nature, in business you want to make money, maximise on it. Projects costs have gone up ten times from the time I came here,” said the eloquent expert.

He said Namibia thus needs more dedicated engineers who are appropriately experienced at the same level as consultants to control the local economy.