Engineers leave reports unsigned to avoid complaints

Allegations have emerged in the High Court at Christchurch this month that an engineering firm is deliberately leaving reports unsigned to avoid complaints to professional body, the Institution of Professional Engineers New Zealand (IPENZ).

Cameron and Suzanne Kelly are suing EQC and Southern Response for the rebuild value of their quake damaged home.

The Press report that during the course of the trial, professional surveyor Adam Cowie proved reluctant to comment on a geotechnical report on the Kellys’ home by Golder & Associates, as the report did not disclose who prepared it or their qualifications. Cowie stated that the firm had informed him of their strategy to deliberately leave the reports unsigned, and IPENZ later confirmed that the firm was correct about the move preventing client complaints.

While Mr Cowie confirmed that the firm did eventually agree to disclose the report writer’s name, he raised a valid point in questioning ‘whether an unnamed, unsigned report prepared by some unknown person who no-one knows is a geotechnical engineer should be used in damage assessments for insurance purposes and as evidence in the High Court.’

This practice is concerning in light of recent coverage of CTV engineers David Harding and Alan Reay, who were able to resign from IPENZ before disciplinary proceedings (resulting from the body’s complaints process) began. While the High Court recently ruled that IPENZ will still have jurisdiction following a resignation to determine proceedings and publish the report, provided that the engineer was a member at the time the work was done and the complaints made, resignation heavily restricts the punishments available if an engineer is found to have breached their professional obligations.

Building and Construction Minister Nick Smith has promised reform to the professional regulation of engineers, including measures to prevent an engineer from resigning to avoid scrutiny to their practice. This revamp of engineering regulations will hopefully nip practices aimed at avoiding accountability (like leaving reports unsigned) in the bud.

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