Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Procrastinate! Procrastinate!

Isn't it exasperating when, just after the road is finally resurfaced after years of being a potholed wreck, the gas board comes along and digs it up again? And then the cable TV company does the same thing. And just as it settles down to normality, as the last road cone is removed, the water main springs a leak and out come the cones, signs and shovels. Again.

You'd have thought that the utilities could have done their work before the road was resurfaced.

Well yes, and this is indeed what is supposed to happen. Far back in the mists of ancient time, in the great and glorious days of the former galactic empire (Thank you Douglas Adams) the Public Utilities Street Works Act came into being. Essentially, before carrying out road improvement works, the highway authority writes to all the services companies and says, "We're going to resurface/widen/build a cloverleaf interchange on this road. Please let us know what stuff you have underground and where it is, tell us if you need any of it diverted or protected, and if you're planning any upgrades or repairs please do them before we do the road surfacing."

PUSWA 1950 has now been superseded in the UK, but the world over, similar legislation is in place to prevent the new, smooth, pristine road surface from being immediately peppered with trench reinstatements.

Now comes the bit where I sail close to the wind and talk about work. I'm paraphrasing here.

In February 2007, I wrote:
    "Dear Utilities Company,
    We're planning new interchanges as per the attached drawings. Please tell us if you have any pipes or cables in the area, and if so, what measures to divert or protect them do you require?"
And in June 2007:
    Dear Utilities Company,
    We've not heard from you. Please find enclosed copies of our previous letter and more drawings. Are any of your pipes or cables affected by our proposals?"
And yet again, this time in February 2008:
    Dear Utilities Company,
    We've still not heard from you. Copies of previous letters are enclosed, with yet more copies of the drawings to remind you."
Until at last, in July 2008, seventeen months after the first enquiry, a response. Scrawled on the bottom of a photocopy of my third letter:
    "I refuse to receive because there is only one set of drawings, and we need two sets. Yallah! Imshi!"
Well thank you. Four sets of layouts at A1 size, two CDs with the AutoCAD version and an A3 set. This constitutes, it seems, fewer than two sets. And a government department which doesn't have a Xerox machine? I don't believe it. I don't believe it!

So are there any pipes or cables? No-one knows, least of all the poor sod who has to decide where to put the bridges.

The law requires No Objection Certificates from all services organisations. Digging a hole without a construction NOC is illegal on pain of imprisonment, and hitting a cable with a JCB bucket causes all sorts of legal unhappiness, to say nothing of the big blue flash and all the lights going out. So if one Government department chooses to ignore NOC requests, another Government department doesn't get its road improvement.

Being gratuitously obstructive: the practical alternative to doing your job.



Mme Cyn said...


alexander... said...

You are peeing close to the family tent, aren't you?

I remember many years ago Muscat losing Internet access because a gardener had put a spade through the cable... buried close enough to the surface to get sliced in this way!

Gnomad said...

This is so much like the Magic Kingdom.

In the Magic Kingdom it's the MFA (Ministry of Foreign Affairs) who are responsible for the majority of the inconveniences inflicted on the ex-pat population. So much so that they are more often referred to as the MFAI (Ministry of Mucking About the Infidel, or something very like that)

I can say from personal experience that Peninsular Gulf State is just as bad. Suspicions of other Gulf states I will keep to myself, having only visited and not resided in them.

I fear it is something to do with government policy in those countries that say only actual Citizens of each country may be employed in that country's Government Offices. They also have a policy that means all other businesses and enterprises must employ a certain proportion of Citizens. These citizens are, more often than not, expected to be in Positions of Authority.

Clearly a twenty-two year old with a pass degree in Islamic Studies is considered far more qualified and competent, for example, to run a civil engineering office than someone who is merely a fully qualified chartered engineer with twenty years experience in the business.

Jobs are, therefore, assigned on the basis of citizenship and wasta*, not on the basis of qualification or competence.

There must be, of course, many citizens of these states who are properly educated, qualified and motivated to do their jobs well but I certainly never seemed to be lucky enough to get to deal with them.

It seems there is a disproportionally large amount people nursing inferiority complexes failing to do jobs that everyone realises they are not sufficiently qualified, educated or motivated to do.

And what do people the world over do when their inferiority complex twinges? They make life difficult for some other poor soul so that they can feel "important".

This is not, of course, limited solely to the Gulf states, it happens the world over. The problem in the Gulf is that the ex-pat has no redress whatsoever and invariably gets the hassle because of the problem generated by the petty bureaucrats with the Napoleon complexes.

* wasta, social influence, having the right connections, being related to the right person, the ability to pass overstuffed plain brown envelopes in return for favours.

Jayne said...

gnomad says it all! I hear some of the things that go on with multi billion durry contracts on Reem Island & end up sounding like Victor Meldew! Drawings are received, signed for & then miraculously disappear into thin air.
An Architectural 'Manager' INSISTED on travelling to Spain to view the factory where door handles are made, despite, having received in the UAE, the full specification of the handle, a copy of the factorys ISO9001 quality assurance certificate, a brochure of the factory & its products & samples of aforementioned handle. The bitch wasn't impressed when her trip was cancelled as a total waste of money.

Mme Cyn said...

Ah, Mr. Gnomad -- Clearly you have left the Land of the Sand for good, as I see your gag order has been rescinded!

Ian the Dog said...

"I refuse to receive because there is only one set of drawings, and we need two sets. Yallah! Imshi!"

Translation: "We have no effing idea what's down there, but of course I cannot admit this. Hopefully my continued non-co-operation will force you to go ahead without our NOC and then we can all blame you for the resultant flood/fire/explosion (delete as appropriate)."

Gnomad said...

Mme Cyn,

The Gnomads have indeed left the Middle East for the foreseeable future. This does not, however, preclude a return.

Being in the Gulf has a great many benefits despite the frustrations and irritations. In the Gnomads' experience, and with only one exception, there is a lot in each of these Gulf states that is good and a little that is excellent (this latter is mostly provided by other ex-pats, though).

It's just that at this particular point in the Gnomad's lives the financial advantages of the Gulf are outweighed by more intangible issues and the Mundane Kingdom has more to offer in this respect.

Of course in that extremely patriotic and not at all fickle way of all ex-pats, once the benefits of being in the Mundane kingdom have been fully realised and taken advantage of, the Gnomads will be looking to continue their slow and sporadic circumnavigation.

The Gnomad feels obliged to point out, though, that there is nothing on God's earth that would take the Gnomads willingly back to the Magic Kingdom.

Seabee said...

The late great Douglas Adams, and Monty Python, couldn't even get close to coming up with the surreal, bizarre stuff our bureaucrats create. They're right up there with their counterparts in Brussels.


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