Speech by Mr Louis Ng Kok Kwang, MP for Nee Soon East GRC at the Second Reading of the Architects (Amendment) Bill [Bill No. 8/2017]
Madam, I commend the stricter regulations brought about by this Bill. It expands the powers given to the Board of Architects to ensure architects in Singapore stay in line thus strengthening honest work in the profession.
I support the enhancements to the current Act, and the new definitions introduced to offer clarity to the practice. Architects I have spoken to inform that industry practitioners have already been practicing along these lines even before regulations were set in stone, but codifying these good practices into law is a progressive step forward.
Madam, I have three comments to make – based on conversations I have had with architects.
Rise in dishonest practice among architects?
Firstly, can the Minister clarify why there is a need to increase the maximum penalty the Board can impose on a registered architect from the current $10,000 to $50,000. Has there been a rise in cases in recent years?
Protecting the profession in Singapore
Secondly, with the amendments to Section 6, I assume it will now be easier for architects in Singapore to do quality work overseas, benefiting less developed countries in our region. Singapore is more advanced and sophisticated in our Building Legislations and Codes of Practice – and this Bill will now place Singapore in a better position to bring our expertise to areas which could benefit from technical support.
With the amendments, foreign registered architects will also be able to work in Singapore. The APEC Architect Framework allows registered architects in each of the countries to work independently, while ASEAN architects under the ASEAN Framework Agreement have to work in collaboration with a licensed Singapore architectural practice.
The safeguards are different depending on the agreements. Could the Minister clarify what is required for the registration process with the Board? I understand that architects from APEC have to take a domain-specific test. What about architects from ASEAN?
In Singapore, some submissions by architects to authorities include a self-declaration to confirm that the qualified person has duly complied with requirements from authorities. If something goes wrong, architects may lose their license and be removed from the Board.
If something goes wrong for projects done by overseas architects under this “mutual recognition” scheme, what penalty would that incur? Do they lose the practice license obtained in their country?
Training and exposure for architects in less-developed countries may not be adequate to familiarise them with Singapore’s building codes and standards. If there are no tight controls to limit the overseas architects to practise in Singapore, the standard of architectural practice here could be affected.
Architecture is already a very competitive market with limited jobs and many firms, and some architects overseas quote cheaper fees, offering poorer quality work. As such, how can we offer mutual recognition, yet protect the profession in Singapore?
Clause 23 – on investigators
Lastly, the Board can appoint a public officer (or any other person) to investigate offenses against architects. Investigators have the power of search and require persons to provide information for investigations. This confers extensive powers to investigators.
Can the Minister clarify who he envisages “any other persons” to be? Perhaps investigators should only be limited to employees of the Board, who will be more familiar with the rules and regulations.
Madam these comments notwithstanding, architects have a professional responsibility towards society and I stand in support of this Bill.