Written by Abdallah Hayek, P.E

To our newly elected President of the Order of Engineers and Architects,

Ever since I can remember, our beloved country has been facing hardships, and crisis after the other, Lebanon has never witnessed peace and stability. From politics, to economy, to security, the Lebanese people have been through a lot. But, there always seemed to be a silver lining in the middle of all these troubles. Our strong nation always seemed to stand tall and not crash in front of all these difficulties and corruption. So why aren’t we, as engineers, fighting and moving forward? Why aren’t measures being taken to rehabilitate our sector and make it thrive?
Since 1981, i.e. 40 years since my graduation as a civil engineer, I have been a member in many international engineering societies including our Order of Engineers and Architects in Beirut and I was active in most of them. They all witnessed a tremendous evolution and advancement in technology and operations, where members benefited from the constant transformations that were made in this ever-changing world. Unfortunately, I feel saddened by our situation which doesn’t reflect this reality at all. Our Order of Engineers and Architects is suffocating and slowly dying under a huge pile of mismanagement, ignorance, and incompetency.

First of all, let me start off by saying that business intelligence, digital transformation, and data analysis are the easiest and most affordable technologies for professional businesses during the 21st century. Using data driven decisions is the key factor to analyze all successful projects. The OEA has a huge and unique inhouse data bank for the building sector, and by the law, a building license has to be registered at the OEA prior to any approval from local authorities. This data is irreplaceable in value, and through it, a full analysis based on an index could be done to envision the trends of the building sector and set updated guidance to engineers and investors, and this is the least obligation to our nation and not a luxury at all. So why doesn’t the OEA provide digital and updated cadastral plans with all the technical details? And why isn’t there any sort of exchange of public data between the OEA and all concerned ministries and directorates? Also, the OEA delegates members to attend the most important international conferences all around the world. These conferences are beneficial and helpful, giving insights and information about the industry and how to improve it.

In our OEA, attending these conferences is considered as a touristic tour to the delegate, and no major documentations or reporting process are recorded following the attendance. How can this happen and pass by unnoticed? Moreover, the current IT software at OEA was designed as an accounting software package for the purpose of collecting licenses fees, and it lacks the capability to issue any statistical data analysis. For the past 40 years, despite the index committee, none of the presidents and members of the board of OEA engaged in a restructuring process for the current software based on the continuous request from the said committee. Let’s give a simple example; the data entry process for the type of licenses has 364 different data entries, whereas it could be simply minimized to 11 and so forth.

Second, submitting research papers and professional reports portrays the serious involvement of any organization, and is an extremely important task which shows the full dedication of the members. Sadly, the OEA built a nonproductive research culture, excluding the scientific committee which used to hold interesting professional seminars. Ever since, no key events, nor papers, nor productive activities arose in the horizon. Periodical weekly and monthly reports can be easily issued by OEA using its inhouse data to help other researchers. Also, a possible cooperation with prime universities should be considered as it encourages engineering projects and establishes an international platform to promote our talents. A promotional plan similar to other professional western publications is crucial at this point and the OEA Journal needs a radical and total restructuring. In addition, no order can succeed in spreading its message without providing

proper and professional trainings to its members. It is unfortunate to see that the current OEA training center is basically falling apart. It requires full support and a total restructuring. A 5-year plan is needed to plan the types of courses that should be given and adapt new technologies in the program.

Third, I would like to point out a very vital point in regards to the technological aspect in the order. The website of the OEA is not well-developed nor does it show the potential and the importance of an order that has more than 60,000 engineers and architects. It is sad to see this huge number of members, and the huge lack of care in return. The admin of the website barely interacts with the users, which is a very negative point. Same goes for social media pages, on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and others. Nowadays, the world has become digital, and most people rely on social media accounts to learn the news or get updates regarding any matter. Why isn’t there a proper admin to run the pages and interact with the members and users? It would be a good idea to update the overall pages and maybe come up with a new design that reflects the members more on the website and on social media pages.

Fourth, one of the most important aspects of any order is the presence and contribution of young talents. Lebanon is known for its high educational level that makes it stand out among other countries. Thousands of top Lebanese engineering students graduate yearly from local and international universities, with top scores and a very impressive background. Wouldn’t it be a huge plus for the OEA to recruit these candidates? Many Lebanese companies are working hard during these tough times, to provide the best opportunities for their young talents. They shouldn’t simply graduate, then unwillingly leave the country; we should provide them with great opportunities, where they can showcase their skills. For example, our sister company Premium Recruiting is a Lebanese NGO that was established to provide the best working opportunities to Lebanese talentsL. It is based on a 7-step testing process that evaluates the candidate in all fields, which makes the recruiter 100% sure of the applicants.
Mr. Elected President, as you know, the OEA is responsible for the reputation of the engineering qualifications and abilities.

How are engineers assessed before becoming members in the order? Is there a serious and professional process that is required?
Unfortunately not. Hence, an entrance exam is a must! We are tired of seeing unqualified engineers, holding positions which they are not qualified to hold. Only a good and qualified engineer should have the right and privilege to issue building licenses. How is it acceptable to just allow any candidate to take part in such a reputable order? If we want to go even deeper, the OEA shouldn’t even accept candidates who graduated from unaccredited universities. So, every local Lebanese university that has an engineering program should receive an accreditation especially for scientific professions. The OEA is currently accepting graduates from unqualified universities that implement modest curriculum programs. And personally, I believe this is unacceptable.

Fifth, I feel the need to express my regret in regards to this point. We are all aware of the main problem in our country, and anyone who denies this fact is basically lying to himself or herself. We all know what got us into this whole mess, and what broke our country. If you type the word “Lebanon” in your search engine, the first word that pops in front of you is “corruption”. Corruption in Lebanon is extremely widespread and is suffocating us. The most corrupt institutions in our country are proven to be our political parties, the public administration, and our system. What’s sad about this fact is that we all know it. I know it for sure, and you do too. And since we are all aware of it, why involve them in the OEA’s decisions and activities?

Why let corrupted and unqualified politicians control our precious order and ruin it? Decent talented engineers lost hope, because they know all about the little game that is being played behind their backs. They know that they won’t be able to join the order, unless they have ‘someone’ to push them through. The OEA is slowly losing its honesty and transparency, and it’s almost becoming a part of this corrupted system. And I truly believe that you wouldn’t want that at all. Also, the bylaws of our OEA are fully in control of the rival of corrupted political parties. Unfortunately, each member is biased to a specific political party. Not only that, but also not enough time is being given to the elected members of the board to make a change. Why shuffle through the members every couple of years? How can they come up with a plan and implement it in such a short time? I believe there is a good solution for this; Mr. President, you can nominate, and for the first time in the history of OEA, an unofficial and completely unbiased ‘Board of Overseers’ that can assist you and provide guidance to the OEA’s executive board. I think it would be a revolutionary step to our OEA.

So, Mr. President, as a citizen and an engineer, I urge you to make a move towards fixing the situation and saving the OEA as quickly as possible. As previously mentioned, many qualified people are waiting for the chance to show their talents, and start saving the country’s institutions one after the other. We all believe that a good talented team can take the lead and make all the necessary changes to the order, maintaining its good reputation and the smooth flow of all the transactions.

And now, with these new elections, you will be this team. We are writing this letter to tell you that we have hope in our order. We believe that you will be the change that we want to see in our organization, and aim to see our order thrive and exceed the level of all orders in the nearby and western countries. Kindly keep a watchful eye on everything that is happening around us, and we entrust our sector, our future, and the future of engineers to you; dear elected Mr. President of the OEA.

Abdallah Hayek, concerned citizen
and engineer.
Hayek Group L.L.C.