RAMBASSUN (SANDEEP) SEWPAL,
Chartered Architect, Principal at Sandeep Sewpal Architect

Key provisions of the Bill. This bill will allow a foreign architect to practice as an architect in Mauritius without the need for him to enter into a joint venture agreement with a local architect or local firm of architects, as is the case for a foreign engineer and a foreign quantity surveyor.

Moreover, the Building Control Act, the Professional Architects’ Council Act, the Professional Quantity Surveyors’ Council Act and the Registered Professional Engineers Council Act will be amended.

Who is a Local Architect? In Mauritius, the Professional Architects’ Council Act 2011 (following on from earlier legislation dating back to 1988) requires any person in Mauritius who practices architecture using the title ‘architect’ to be registered at the Professional Architects’ Council (PAC) [https://www.pac-mauritius.com]. Only those persons who have prescribed qualifications from a recognized school of architecture listed by the International Union of Architects (UIA) can be registered by the PAC. Registered Architects have completed at least seven years academic and practical training and are highly skilled and qualified professionals.

What does our law say on a Foreign Architect? Under Section 24 of the PAC Act 2011, a foreign architect is not authorized to practice architecture in Mauritius unless, (a) he is engaged in relation to the construction of a Government Building (b) he enters, subject to section 25, into a joint venture agreement with a professional architect or firm of architects; (c) he is engaged, subject to section 26, in relation to the construction of a building for any statutory corporation or Government company; (d) he is appointed, subject to section 27, by the Public Service Commission.

What is the role of the Professional Architects’ Council (PAC)? The PAC was established by Parliament in 1988 to regulate the architects’ profession in Mauritius. It is an independent, public interest body and its work in regulating architects ensures that good standards within the profession are consistently maintained for the benefit of the public and architects alike.

Its duties are contained in the 2011 Professional Architects’ Council Act, and cover eight main areas:
– Be responsible for registering professional architects
– Be responsible for authorising foreign architects to practise architecture in Mauritius
– Keeping the Mauritian Register of Architects
– Investigating complaints about an architect’s conduct or competence
– Making sure that only people on the Register offer their services as architects
– Acting as the Mauritius regulatory authority for architects
– Advise the Minister on any matter relating to the profession
– Ensure that the Code of Practice is complied with by architects.

What is the purpose of the Professional Architects’ Council Code of Practice? The purpose of the Code of Practice is to promote professional good conduct and best practice. Members should at all times be guided by its spirit as well as its precise and express terms. Members must comply with all relevant legal obligations. Any architect practising in a country outside his country where he registered as architect, may be required to be a member of, or registered by, that country’s professional or regulatory body for architects. And the Code of Practice applies to all professional architects practicing in Mauritius, whether foreign architect or not.

Local Architects are regulated by the Professional Architects’ Council, with whom all architects need to have membership to enjoy the use of the title and also the Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB), with whom all architectural firms should have membership for them to provide consultancy services. A local architect faces the possibility of discipline, financial penalty or ultimately being struck off and removed from the Register whose conduct is found to be in contravention of the Code of Practice. An architect will be very cautious not to face public shame of a disciplinary procedure and he will not jeopardise his right to use the term “Architect’’ after spending so much time to achieve this status. No amount of Professional Indemnity Insurance can cater for this. If we use someone who is unregulated then we will have no recourse through these two bodies.

What are the challenges that a foreign architect will face if he does not enter into a joint venture agreement with a local architect when working overseas? Processes of designing and administering contracts may often appear similar, but in practice, there are subtle and even significant differences that can catch out the unwary architect when working overseas. These differences can become more acute in certain countries like Mauritius where architects are expected to conform to professional regulations and to have a good understanding of the culture, the political, economic and national objectives, the physical climate and the state of development of the construction industry and building technology.
Cultural Awareness: A foreign architect will need to understand the social and business customs in order to establish successful business relationships in Mauritius.
Business Concerns: The PAC Code of Practice states that “Every professional architect shall comply with the Building Control Act and the Local Government Act, and any other laws directly and indirectly related with the professional practice of professional architecture.”A foreign architect will need to understand the laws and regulations of the jurisdiction that govern many aspects of architectural practice.

Architectural Practice: The architect’s role varies from one country to another. A foreign architect will need to consider the scope and nature of professional liability, the typical scope of professional services, the role of consultants and the nature of contracts.

A foreign architect will need to develop an understanding of expectations relating to duty of care, copyright protection (and whether a particular country is a signatory to the Berne Convention on copyright), how procurement procedures work, the process for project approvals, typical relationships between architects, owners and design team. He will also need to identify the typical scope of professional services including planning, design, construction administration, expectations regarding on-site presence or supervision of the contractor, the form of contract used and professional indemnity insurance requirements.
Permits: A foreign architect will need to identify processes for obtaining permits for zoning, planning, building construction and occupancy.

Construction industry: A foreign architect will need to understand the process for soliciting bids for public/private projects, the composition of the design team, the use of general contractors, the usual breakdown of sub-contractor trades, as well as the relationship between the owner and contractor or the architect and contractor.

A foreign architect will need to understand construction methods and any laws regulating the building construction process. Assess the capabilities of the domestic construction industry and determine the feasibility of using local or international contractors. The same is true for building materials (would any premium be attached to specification or Mauritian products?). Identify ing the government departments that control the process (planning departments, environmental protection agencies, regional authorities etc.) is not easy without the help of a local architect. And NO other organisations or government agencies can substitute the role of an architect in Mauritius as the practice of architecture is protected by law.

What fear do local architects have? Local architects fear that the Construction Industry Development Board (Amendment) Bill will provide free access to foreign architects who in turn, would have NO cultural awareness, business concerns, understanding of local architectural practice and construction industry prior to working on projects in Mauritius. This is why local architects believe that it can be really helpful to work through a Joint Venture (JV) with a local counterpart to help a foreign one with matters such as building regulations, planning, materials, building techniques, tendering and contractual procedures.

Partnering enables practices in a host country to bid for major development work by being able to offer, through a Joint Venture, the required skills and experience, and make it possible for authors of off-shore funded projects to engage with local culture/society, thereby reinforcing the local factor whilst benefiting from proven global skills. Those involved share similar forms of professional qualifications, common language, similar contracts and legal structures, and a shared Code of Ethics. This is why local architects and Thomas Vonier, UIA President, strongly believe that the Government of Mauritius should NOT amend the Construction Industry Development Board Act to allow a foreign architect to practice as an architect in Mauritius without the need for him to enter into a joint venture agreement with a local architect or local firm of architects.