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The Professional Journal of The Institution of Surveyors, Malaysia

AN INTERVIEW WITH PAST PRESIDENT

Sr NOUSHAD ALI NASEEM AMEER ALI


PP Sr Noushad Ali Naseem Ameer Ali

an you please give us a brief biography of yourself?

Interview

I am a quantity surveyor, married to Nazimah a food scientist, and we are blessed with four young children Sabina, Nazif, Natasha, and Nadia. I hope that is brief enough. My academic and professional qualifications can be found after my long name: Noushad Ali Naseem Ameer Ali BSc (Hons) QS (Reading, UK), CDipAF, MSc Arch (Univ College London), MSc Construction Law & Arbitration (Kings College London), PPISM, FISM, MRICS, ICECA, FCIOB, FCIArb, MAPM. I am a Registered Quantity Surveyor (Msia), Chartered Quantity Surveyor (UK), Chartered Builder (UK) and an Accredited Mediator (Msia). I have worked primarily in the industry in the areas of quantity surveying, project management, construction contracts consultancy, and dispute resolution. My career over the past 25 years also includes research and teaching at universities in Malaysia, the United Kingdom and New Zealand. How long have you been a member of the ISM and what are the positions you have held during those years as a member? I have been a member of ISM for 25 years. I became a graduate member in 1986 and was admitted as a corporate member in 1988. There are too many ISM positions I have served, spread over a 20 year period. I will highlight a few. At the ISM level: President, Deputy President, Secretary General, Council member and Editorial Board member. At Quantity Surveying Divisional level: Division Chair, Secretary and Treasurer. And much earlier at the QS Division sub-committee level: CPD and Sports, and Social committees. I have much to thank Tuan Haji Harun and Past President Tuan Haji Basar Juraimi of Basar & Harun,

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Quantity Surveyors for the opportunity to work and qualify as a member of the ISM and to serve the ISM, particularly during my formative years. Working with them confirmed that Monday morning blues is a myth at least for me. Currently you are residing in New Zealand. Can you share some of the latest developments? I might physically be in Auckland or Petaling Jaya or sometimes even in London, Hong Kong, Sydney, Singapore, Dunedin, Johor Bahru or Penang, but my mind is always developing things relating to what is good for society, the construction industry, academia and the profession. That continually inquiring and researching mind keeps us active. Regular contact through modern technology including Skype video conferencing with my peers keeps the virtual contact seamless. A few notable things on my mind now include the completion of my PhD in the area of adjudication, the status of the proposed Construction Industry Payment and Adjudication Act for Malaysia, the modernising of construction contracts including the Model Terms for subcontracts, the redrafting of the new Malaysian Design and Build contract into plain English, and researching and drafting a plain English construction contract for minor works and smaller projects. Systematising work including businesses like consultancies or sharing knowledge through research and teaching can make things more efficient. Dont forget, I also have my other passions in life too my wife Nazimah and four young children! There are also a few other projects I have in mind. Hope they will all come to fruition over the next few years all for the benefits of society, industry, academia, and the profession.

My vision for the ISM is to see it providing core services to its members and potential members in a very efficient manner, and to be a leader in facilitating its members to provide state-of-theart services.

Two diversified surveyors seeking inspiration and knowledge on adjudication from afar

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The Professional Journal of The Institution of Surveyors, Malaysia

What are the progresses that you have seen for the QS profession and the Institution in particular? I have seen much progress within The Institution of Surveyors, Malaysia over the years. The ISM congress and QS conventions are well established regular features now. They were not before not during my early days of ISM membership. And there was a recent trend to open it out to society in general with wider topic areas. What could be better is for the conferences to be more relevant and useful to more of our members and practical in nature and focused by discipline. That might even mean much more technical papers organised by discipline. A quantity surveyor might have little interest in the latest developments relating to geodetic surveying or photogrammatry, and a geomatic and land surveyor might have little interest in an expert system that can accurately forecast construction cost or the latest developments in the law relating to extensions of time in construction contracts. It might be difficult with the differing divisions that we have, but it can be done by giving more focus to specific divisional topic areas and limiting and keeping the common plenary sessions to topics of practical use and general appeal. The ISM has also recently taken up the challenge of becoming more international. If this challenge is to succeed, the ISM needs to work with it associated regulatory boards and related professional bodies around the world. And members must embrace the use of technology to provide their services in a more seamless borderless way and not just be bound by the four walls of a physical office in Kuala Lumpur, Kota Kinabalu, Johor or Penang. Even the The Malaysian Surveyor journal is so much better in its outlook. It can go to greater heights as long as we maintain the editorial quality. Typos and significant grammatical errors of the past should never be allowed to creep back in.

the result of my research around the world convinced me that contracts can be written in plain language without losing legal intent.

Published documents cannot have such mistakes. On progress of the Quantity Surveying profession itself, much more could be achieved. So much more. Time and again topics on innovation, modern approaches, 21st century issues are talked about in seminars and conferences, but in reality so much has yet to be actually embraced. Whilst we have isolated members venturing into new areas of opportunities, we have not reached a critical mass of quantity surveyors embracing the forefront of so many areas waiting to be tapped into. Among them project management, planning and programming, dispute resolution, facilities management, mechanical and electrical engineering quantity surveying, oil and gas quantity surveying, contract administration, green building advisory services, practical implementation of life-cycle costing, adoption of building information modelling methods, or even value engineering or management. I repeat we have much opportunities but we do not have the critical mass of members embracing these opportunities yet. What are your visions for ISM ? My vision for the ISM is to see it providing core services to its members and potential members in a very efficient manner, and to be a leader in facilitating its members to provide state-of-the-art services. We should not just be holding the fort and resting on our traditional past. Speed and efficiency is critical in this modern era of technology. A wider vision on expanding services and keeping an open mind is important. My vision is, of course, only worth as much as the extent to which it is

Interview

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A key statement I have made repeatedly is I would rather there be no adjudication in Malaysia than to have lousy adjudicators dispensing speedy injustice!

bought every book I could get hold of that had been written on plain legal drafting worth thousands of dollars and pounds! A little digression, I will never forget the day I bought a large number of books from a few bookshops in central London a few years ago. Knowing I was going to buy a fair number, I had brought a large suitcase with me to the bookshops. I planned to drop in to the hotel and leave my suitcase and books there before going for my next appointment. But I was so carried away at the bookshops, I was running late. So I got my heavy suitcase and dragged it across London straight to my next appointment instead of dropping it off at the hotel. It was an appointment with Ian Duncan Wallace QC the well known authority on construction law and editor of Hudsons Engineering and Building contracts. I could never be late for that appointment! When I arrived at his apartment and knocked on his door he did not even wink a little seeing a brown Asian man dragging a heavy suitcase knocking at his door in West London. We had a memorable chat. Later, he invited me for lunch at a Singaporean restaurant down the road. We had a very interesting chat about adjudication, his controversial views about conspiracies by contract drafting bodies in the United Kingdom, and about whether anyone had ever sued him for his bold statements on drafting bodies conspiracies. After lunch we went back to his apartment and later he bade me farewell as I trudged along with my suitcase laden with plain language legal drafting books into the hustle and bustle of central London. I was only to meet him one more time after that a few years later with a small team from the Construction Industry Development Board Malaysia and Geoff Bayley, a renowned adjudicator who was instrumental in introducing adjudication to New Zealand. This time our discussions were on adjudication a few other general

shared and carried forward by future Presidents and councils. You are well known for promoting simple construction contracts. How do you see this as a relevant contribution to the industry and the country? I do believe in and promote plain language construction contracts and plain communication. Since 2003, I have been doing research on the anomaly between the language style used in documents such as construction contract, legislation affecting construction contracts, sales and purchase contracts, and tenancy contracts. These contracts or legislation are often written in traditional legal style or legalese. But the parties to the contract often do not understand the contract. Either the public must all be educated to understand traditional legalese or the contracts must be redrafted in plain language without losing legal intent. Effectively, I put up my hands and acknowledged I did not understand some of the contract clauses or legislative provisions. I just happened to be the one who flagged out this anomaly. I see myself as the kid who shouted the emperor has no clothes! But I did not just flag this out, I wanted answers. Like why the use of and/or been referred to as a Janus-faced verbal monstrosity and as bastardly by judges? Or the little known fact that shall has multiple meanings in law and is best avoided? I found little answers in Malaysia so I searched the world for answers. I even attended courses in the United Kingdom and New Zealand and

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The Professional Journal of The Institution of Surveyors, Malaysia

Interview

Promoting modern plain legal drafting to the Malaysian Chief Justice with the help of top world modern legal authorities

issues. Soon after that second meeting at his home, he passed away. What a loss to the construction law community. Incidentally, I was not stopped by police on my journey back to the hotel and there were no newspaper reports of any incidents in London that day! A few days later, I returned to Malaysia with over 60 kg worth of luggage mainly books, about 35 kg in my hand luggage and close to another 30 kg in my checked-in suitcase. Back to business: the result of my research around the world convinced me that contracts can be written in plain language without losing legal intent. I now strive to use plain language. If contracts can be and are written in plain language that parties to the contract and the contract administrator and lawyers and judges can understand on first reading, it will lead to greater efficiency when administering the contract. And the chances of unwarranted disputes materialising are reduced. That is relevant and beneficial to the core business of the construction industry and society. It does not feed the peripheral dispute resolution industry but as all professionals know or ought to know, the professional must be altruistic prioritising societys interest over self-interest. I have not stopped. I am at the tail end of redrafting the proposed new Design and Build contract for Malaysia. And I have just finished drafting a universal construction contract that might have the potential of being used anywhere in the world with little or no changes needed. The contract is in plain language, of course. I am doing some preliminary testing in New Zealand and Malaysia and a few other countries. There is some likelihood of it being translated to other languages. We shall see.

If you want a copy and some notes on this draft universal plain language construction contract, email me at naseem6864@yahoo.com. Feedback will be appreciated. These initiatives have had challenges. So far the biggest challenges have not come from lawyers. I have had people calling me a crusader in my quest to promote plain language. I take that in a positive note. I have had much support from the masses from the construction industry, from authorities from the construction industry most notably the Construction Industry Development Board, and many top plain legal language world authorities including judges, law professors, lawyers, linguists, and academics. I have several other ideas relating to plain language in Malaysia. Developed countries like New Zealand, Australia, and even the United Kingdom have moved forward in adopting plain language. We can learn from their experience. Some have even mandated plain language use through legislation. Adopting plain language across society means greater efficiency. Let us see what can be achieved in my lifetime God willing. You seem to be deeply involved in adjudication. Would you consider yourself to be Mr Adjudication in Malaysia? Mr Adjudication!? Among my goals for society, the construction industry, our profession, and my area of work are greater efficiency. You heard me say a few things on modernising construction contracts for greater efficiency. Disputes are a digression for people in the construction industry. Instead of focusing on the core business of

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Discussing best adjudication model for Malaysia with top adjudicators worldwide

construction or development or construction consultancy, disputes take us away from our core business. Instead, it feeds the dispute resolution industry. To the construction industry, the dispute resolution industry is peripheral. I have been involved in dispute resolution including arbitrations as part of my consultancy services including through CIC-QS Services, Beard Dove, and the High-Point Rendel consultancy groups. The gross inefficiency and wastage of time and money really woke me up one day. I was always looking at alternatives. I did some research. Mediation came about, and it is great, but required consensus and a will to settle amicably. That will is not always present in construction disputes. Enter adjudication. Adjudication has been statutorily enacted in the United Kingdom, New Zealand, all states in Australia, and Singapore. With over a dozen years experience in it, it has been referred to as a runaway success by Dr Robert Gaitskell a top construction lawyer (a Queens Counsel) cum engineer in the UK and as revolutionary by the head of the Technology and Construction court in the UK Sir Vivian Ramsey. John Riches, a quantity surveyor in the UK says it has been the best thing since sliced bread was invented. And Geoff Bayley, a quantity surveyor in New Zealand says it has been a dispute resolution revolution. Why has it been so successful? It is fast the statutes limit the timeframe for completing the adjudication typically limited to days. Not surprisingly, it is also economical as the time is limited. Adjudication also allows the disputes to be resolved when it happens contemporaneously. Commercial parties would rather

resolve their disputes quickly and economically than to have the finest justice dispensed after years in arbitration or in court incurring great expense. One major consequence since the introduction of adjudication is the number of construction arbitrations has reduced significantly. To me, a true professional would see that as a good thing. Saving time and money from reduced protracted dispute resolution methods whether in court or in arbitration is good for society even if at the expense of arbitrators fees and legal fees. How did all this start in Malaysia? When the construction industry got together at a first industry get-together to look at improving the construction industry in June 2003, I represented the ISM. Subsequently, 10 areas of priority were identified and I was nominated to chair a working group on payment (WG 10). Following research around the world, I then made recommendations for the creation of a Malaysian Construction Industry Payment and Adjudication. The Construction Industry Development Board facilitated extensive consultations and investigation into what model might be best for Malaysia. The construction industry was generally supportive of the initiative. Among them the Master Builders Association Malaysias support was extraordinarily strong. Wanting to know even more, I thought the best way to learn was to research at the highest level (at PhD level). My research is being done through the University of Auckland and Massey University in New Zealand. I knew by researching deeply, I would be able to see through good suggestions and mere objections to adjudications by those with vested interests.

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Again, as in any endeavour, there were challenges. The challenges came later primarily from the Malaysian Bar Council initially who were then joined by a few bodies such as the Malaysian Institute of Arbitrators. A construction lawyer who is also a qualified quantity surveyor, Mr Lim Chong Fong, was asked to prepare a draft act based on the concepts that we had thought might be best for the Malaysian construction industry. He too faced enormous challenges from differing parties with different vested interests. After much struggles, the cabinet approved the concepts in principle in July 2009. Recently, the Bar Council shifted its stand from total objection to the proposed Act entirely to discussing what concepts need to be debated and refined to accommodate as a compromise among the many parties with interests in it. This approach has also been taken up recently by the Kuala Lumpur Regional Centre for Arbitration recently. I am pleased with these developments. My only wish is for the final Act that eventually is passed in parliament to be one that is best for society and the construction industry. That has to prevail over vested interests of arbitration bodies and professional bodies whether representing lawyers, architects, engineers or quantity surveyors. A key statement I have made repeatedly is I would rather there be no adjudication in Malaysia than to have lousy adjudicators dispensing speedy injustice! In other words, I want the training and quality standards for adjudicators in Malaysia to be maintained at the highest level anywhere in the world. So, I dont know about being Mr Adjudication, but I am passionate about adjudication because it is so much more efficient. That is good for society and the construction industry. Could you comment on surveying education in Malaysia? How do you see surveying as a professional career? I have always thought surveying specifically quantity surveying or valuation surveying is among the best first degrees and educational experience one could get. Why? Because it is balanced. The course content typically draws on both right and left brain abilities. There is a huge amount of number crunching or quantitative subjects measurement, technology, valuation, feasibility studies, estimating, costing, and computer applications. At the same time there are many qualitative subjects like management, economics, the law of contract, tort, legal systems, more specialised law like land law, landlord and tenant law, construction law, and construction contracts. I prefer this balanced educational experience at undergraduate level than those that focus substantially

on either the sciences (like engineering, chemistry, physics, medicine, mathematics) or the arts or qualitative subjects like law, economics, business studies, sociology or politics. The fact that these surveying professions offer the opportunity to have a balance of outdoor work like going to construction sites or property sites, and the indoor office environment also appeals to me. These are some of the reasons why I chose to read quantity surveying at university. I wanted this ideal balance. I have my father to thank much for doing all the career investigation even when I was at the final stages of my studies at secondary school at the Malay College Kuala Kangsar. He consulted architects and others in practice in the construction industry and communicated with universities in the United Kingdom way in advance of my entry to university in the UK. I have suggested surveying degrees are great educational experiences as undergraduate courses. That does not mean one has to be limited by that for the rest of their lives. You can always specialise in other related areas after qualifying as a surveying professional. I know of very successful construction lawyers with a quantity surveying background. I also know successful corporate figures with valuation surveying backgrounds. Do you think there are any common misconceptions people have about the surveying profession? Some think surveying means holding measuring equipment and roaming the streets. How far from true. Others think quantity surveying means measuring quantities thats it. I have not measured quantities in a long time! But I am a quantity surveyor. And some think valuation surveying is like estate agency where you act as an agent for a house owner and only sell houses! Part of the misconception comes from the narrow name surveying. And part of it can be faulted on surveyors themselves. We need to explain to others family, society, anyone what we do. I remember explaining to a security officer at Auckland airport what surveyors do when he saw my name tag Sr Naseem and asked me what Sr stood for. I made it clear it was short for Surveyor not short for Sir and that I was not knighted yet. What is your advice to those who wish to pursue a career in the Quantity Surveying profession? Like the Nike tag-line I suggest, just get on and do the course once you have decided. Then focus on getting your professional memberships that are recognised in Malaysia and elsewhere. Then start

Interview

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looking at niche areas or specific areas of interest that you might want to specialise in. Or look at new areas that have yet to be ventured into. Some might want to do a masters degree. Some people will tell you masters degrees are only for academics. Dont listen to them. Trust me I have done two masters degrees! It will only enhance your career whether you are in industry or academia or both! Then you might want to do a PhD. Again some (probably 98% of colleagues) will tell you that is only for academics. Arguing with naysayers is futile so just smile at them and get on and do it if you want to. Ask Ir Dr Gue See Sew of the Institution of Engineers Malaysia a well-known practicing engineer and renowned expert witness whether a doctorate is only for academics. It is not. After nearly 50 years in operation, what are the successes ISM has achieved and what are the challenges ahead? The successes of the ISM are numerous. I have identified some of them earlier. I wont dwell. I will deal with challenges instead it is more challenging! Everyone talks about challenges from outside - challenges from the overseas onslaught as globalization widens, challenges from large competitors within and outside Malaysia, challenges of being swallowed by large practices, and even challenges from other professions. I do not see these as the biggest challenges. Of course these are challenges and must be addressed. And in line with the Malaysian passion for titles and recognition, getting the royal status for ISM (effective July the Royal Institution of Surveyors Malaysia or RISM) is unprecedented, an extraordinary achievement and a great honour and recognition. That achievement is a much greater achievement and recognition than even our earlier initiative to encourage members to vote to introduce the prefix Sr to make ourselves more visible and recognised. These are all important, but I see internal challenges as the greatest challenges for quantity surveyors. The challenges from the man in the mirror you (and me!). Here are some of the internal challenges. Bribery and corruption. Bribery and corruption is not like cancer. Cancer only affects the person and indirectly those surrounding the person. Cancer can even be isolated and the person can recover. Bribery and corruption is like an uncontrollable infectious disease. More like addictive drugs, drinking, or gambling. Once affected, it spreads like wild fire. It is very difficult to stop. And like uncontrolled wild fire or a tsunami, it will swallow everyone up. That is the greatest challenge facing the quantity surveying profession. We are at the forefront of the financial aspects of the construction industry. If we ourselves are corrupt in getting some measly fees for consultancy work, it is very

easy to be bought over into believing that it is ok to under or over value to suit parties needs instead of exercising professional judgment. We must look at what is happening around the world in both developed and developing countries and raise to the highest level of cleansing ourselves from this disease. Treat it with contempt and disgust. It is jijik. It is a public enemy. If we are going to give the excuse that it is in the system and we cannot do anything about it think again. Quit the profession. And quit the industry. Go sell nasi lemak instead or be a tuition teacher. That would be better for the construction industry, society, and our soul. Another internal challenge is the attitude challenge. In short, I would just repeat what has famously been said but modified for the ISM. Ask not what others like ISM can do for you; instead ask what you can do for yourself. Ask what you can do to improve yourself and then do it. The consequences will follow. We cannot change the world but we can change ourselves. Usually positive change will have a positive consequence and a negative change will have negative consequence. What is your advice to young surveyors? My advice to young surveyors? (i) It does not matter where you came from or where you are now. What matters is where you are heading to in the future. If you want to know how your future is likely to look like, look around you at your closest friends. You are likely to be like them. If you like it, fine. If you want to be more successful, start mixing with a new lot of people. The kind of people you aspire to be. Do not, I repeat, do not mix with negative people the naysayers. And of course do not mix with the corrupt! Treat them with disgust because they are scumbags worse than cancer. If you continue doing what you have been doing over past few years, you can bet you are likely to be where you are now in a few years. To be different or to be at a different level, you have to act differently today, do things differently. (ii) Look out for your Unique Selling Proposition (USP). Everyone is unique not just in thumb print, tongue print, and the iris. Look at what unique skills you have. If you have nothing obviously outstanding, look at what you want to develop and be good at. Anyone, I repeat, anyone, can be an expert in something that they choose to specialise in if they have enough passion to develop that skill and are willing to put time into it. Combine all the hard work with some extra help from God! Actually these pieces of advice might be good advice for the not-so-young surveyors too!

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