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Rio building collapse: where is the oversight?

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“You’d need thousand of inspectors, paid with citizens’ taxes. Do you want to pay more taxes for this? Or an inspection fee?” asked one Facebook thread commenter.

An architect, in response to the same thread, said the city is responsible for keeping every new building’s original plans, for reference during renovation – but that he’s found these blueprints are often unavailable.

In many countries, inspection fees are indeed charged when renovation takes place, for everything from commercial construction to home improvement. This involves bureaucracy, but insurance companies don’t insure uninspected work. The process is meant to safeguard the public at large, and in the case of an accident, facilitates investigations, prosecution, and legal decisions regarding blame and compensation.

Who will pay for the damages and suffering in this week’s tragic case? So far, the State Social Aid Secretariat has said it will pay burial costs for the dead, and the state council of engineers mentioned that the engineer in charge of the unreported work could lose his license. Insurance hasn’t been mentioned – and neither the owner’s name nor that of the engineer in charge of the work has been made public.

Up until last month when bus corridors were instituted in Rio de Janeiro, it was a city where one could bring a municipal bus to a stop anywhere at all, simply by raising a finger. More of a village, than a city.

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