Contractors urged to be watchdogs

Business News of Monday, 8 April 2013

Source: B&FT


The Minister for Water Resources, Works and Housing, Collins Dauda has asked contractors in the country to “peer review” their own colleagues and report instances of shoddy-work so that government can take the needed action.

The contractors, he said, should point out “flaws and faults” in buildings and roads whenever they come across them to the appropriate authorities. “I pray that we will all police each other to avoid these heartbreaking disasters,” the minister said at a two-day conference on sanitising and regulating the construction industry in Ghana.

The disasters in question, the most recent of which involved the Melcom department stores, have left many Ghanaians wondering whether regulatory frameworks exist in the country’s built environment.

According to the sector minister, there exist “adequate rules and regulations that should ensure sanity in the construction industry,” but that the lack of or little enforcement is to blame for the lapses.

He is hopeful that since industry players are themselves concerned about standards in the wake of the Melcom disaster — and had initiated the conference — they will play a key role in ensuring sanity in the built environment. Indeed, industry players see the conference as a major step toward streamlining the industry and finding solutions to inform policy directions.

Prior to the Conference, some members of the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) and officials of related ministries travelled to Singapore and Malaysia to observe best practices in those countries. The Chairman of CIOB, Rockson Dogbegah, told journalists that the two countries have master-plans for their construction industries because they recognise the sector’s contribution to national development.

“Malaysia’s construction sector contributes about 5% to their GDP and they see this as very important, and so they do everything to grow and develop the industry — to the extent that they have even established construction courts to deal with construction matters, and that is how much premium they place on the sector. They also have a bill developed to deal with delayed payments which they call Delayed Payment Act,” he said.

Mr. Dogbegah called for a “harmonised agency” to deal with matters relating to the construction industry in the country. “If there is fragmentation of groups, we cannot get results. If we have one agency that sees to all the issues it makes things easier. We need to have a master-plan for the construction industry, and that will lead us into accepting the need for a harmonised front,” he stressed.

The country’s economic growth rate, which has been described as rapid, is reflected in the construction industry. With the nation emerging as an oil producing country, the industry is projected to grow at a rate of 13% (ISSER, 2008). With buildings collapsing every so often and roads hardly done right, however, concerns about standards continue to dominate public discourse about the industry.

According to Collins Duada the processes for acquiring building permits are cumbersome and they contribute to why a lot of people build without permits. He thus called for an examination of the way the permits are issued in the country, warning though, that “By this I am not, however, suggesting any compromise.”

The minister entreated contractors attending the workshop to critically examine the nagging challenges of the industry, adding that “I look forward to the outcome of this workshop and hope to work with you to significantly improve on the construction industry, discussing the gaps and finding solutions to inform policy directions.