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Professional Practice

Is the Department of Building and Engineering Services (DBES) fit for purpose?

The Department of Building and Engineering Services (DBES) is tasked with the crucial role of procuring Government building projects. According to their own mandate, DBES…has the portfolio responsibility for Government building development projects, their associated infrastructure, engineering services and the maintenance of government building, electrical and mechanical stock.

The Government of Botswana is the biggest employer of both contractors and building consultants in the building industry of Botswana. DBES’s yearly pre-recession budget was well over 240 million a year (financial year 2008) in their various government projects. It is with this significant responsibility of public money that one needs to know how the department matches up to this enormous task.  More importantly, the question of how well fitted for their purpose DBES is needs to be addressed.

In his recent radio interview (Gabz FM), Minister Jonnie Swartz blamed some of DBES’s problems on the lack of qualified building project mangers and supervisors. This revealing admission of lack of appropriate personnel, especially at inspection and audit level, means DBES has been running and completing projects all these years without any idea of what they are doing. This somehow could explain the many recently completed projects which are currently falling apart. How were the final project completion certificates been issued if DBES has had over the years lacked qualified personnel at audit level?

Since its formation in 2003, DBES has continuously been dodged by questions of cost overruns, project mismanagement and dilapidating projects. A quick online search for local news stories concerning DBES brings a result of almost hundreds of stories in the last 3 years, most of which are negative. Just in these past few months, the department has been experiencing one of its worst runs of front page stories concerning allegations and problems current and past projects. A lot of government projects are either behind schedule, mismanaged, over budget, incomplete or some just plain falling apart just months after completion.

Some of the prominent projects such as the National Stadium and Oddi Arts College are currently lying idle with no clear understanding of what action is to be taken. The department seems to have adopted a ‘wait-and-see’ method of project management where live projects with teething problems are left to simmer until the project is ‘finished’ before the department can act. The Oddi College of Arts had problems which could have been dealt with during construction, the National Stadium had problems which must have been noticed during construction, and currently Sir Seretse Khama International Airport has problems which, instead of being addressed by the department and ministry right away, are awaiting project completion before they can investigate and act. This shocking mode of project management seems at most reckless with this country’s public funds and begs the question; is the Department of Building and Engineering Services really fit for purposes?

One needs to acknowledge that the department’s new director, Ulf Soderstroom, will need time to turn the ailing department around. Since he took charge, many positive steps have taking place such as the formation of the Project Audit team and lately there is talk of the Construction Industry super regulator. Although these are good indications of some change, more still needs to be done to proactively deal with problems head on rather than waiting to settle matters at the courts, which seems to be what comes across when reading through the interview of permanent secretary to MIST Cater Morupisi on Mmegi last Friday (20th May).


© 2011, Boidus. All rights reserved.


One Response to “Is the Department of Building and Engineering Services (DBES) fit for purpose?”

  1. We need white people again

    i dont mean to be mean

    I know one thing for sure, our people CAN do it better the way we want it to be done but…

    But we wont

    and it can take years to resolve these things

    Looking down on the advice of own own people,
    Hunger (corruption),
    Personal problems,
    dikoloto (yes they are valid! dont even try to advice or critisize people on this one),
    even lack of faith that we can do things we want because of negativity

    I feel Botswana e tsere independece too soon

    le ta intshwarela ke bua maikuto ame

    But let consultants on contract basis look on these development issues for just 5 years and you will see the improvement that we will make (even at DBES)

    While we sort our personal problems because we are overburdened by responsibility in our expectations

    thats my truth

    Posted by Ishmael | 13. Nov, 2013, 8:20 am

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