Saturday, December 3, 2022

Construction consultancies face closure

Scores of professional services consultants in the construction industry may be forced to close shop after going without any new government projects for the past three years.

Professional services consultants’ already critical situation has not been helped by government’s decision to exclude them from the P1,8 billion set aside for maintenance and repair of government facilities in the current 2012/13 financial year.

The Association of Consulting Engineers (ACEB) wrote to the Ministry of Infrastructure Science and Technology (MIST) in July complaining that none of their members was awarded any of the contracts for maintenance and refurbishment of government assets announced by Finance and Development Planning minister Kenneth Matambo.

Matambo announced that P1.84 billion has been set aside in the 2012/2013 budget for maintenance, repairs and refurbishments of government assets.

ACEB further sought clarification from MIST on why the rooster system has not been applied in the maintenance and refurbishment works as per Presidential CAB 12/2007 and amendments as per Presidential Directive CAB 29(B) 2010.

In response, Permanent Secretary in MIST, Dikagiso Mokotedi, said due to unavailability of funds to engage consultancy services, his ministry had not awarded any such contracts.

ACEB has been advocating to procuring entities, for inclusion as a minimum condition, survey, planning and documentation components in the government brown field projects, particularly where there are opportunities to introduce sustainable, innovative and green aspects to maintenance, refurbishment and or rehabilitation.

In a letter to ACEB members in October, Chairman Jay Mphake criticised government for the continued exclusion of consultants in maintenance projects. “This is indeed a classic case of penny wise pound foolish in the medium to long term,” he said.

At the height of the economic downturn new government projects in which consultants had been appointed to provide consultancy services but with construction not having started were cancelled.
Slow economic growth, uncertainty in the global economy which has forced government to reduce and / or suspend spending in the construction industry could see some contractors go belly up.

Stakeholders in the construction industry which was to hold yet another Construction Pitso last Thursday have labeled the forum a talk shop, whose resolutions are not implemented. Industry players among them Consulting Engineers, Architects, and Quantity Surveyors are in agreement that more creative ways are needed to sustain the industry to augment economic growth. The fifth Construction Pitso scheduled for last week Thursday has been postponed to February 2013, to be held under the theme Constructing the Economy; Consolidating Strategic Partnerships.

Although it was recommended in 2011 that tender documents be availed online that has not been implemented.

Industry insiders say although they have associations that represent their interest they are incapacitated by lack of supporting legislature. For example a draft bill presented to government by quantity surveyors has not been acted upon three years later.

Government has also failed to create a costs database as agreed at last year’s pitso. Government has further been accused of paying lip service to citizen empowerment by failing to promulgate an Act which will compel various procuring entities in government and parastatals to implement provisions of the act.

Currently only policies and directives are used which are difficult to enforce. Government is said to be considering a hybrid system between Mauritius Empowerment law and South Africa’s BEE to come up with a local version of citizen economic empowerment.

Last year the construction industry experienced growth of 19.7 percent. In the 2012 state of the nation address President Ian Khama said government took strong action in the face of the failure of a number of priority projects to be delivered on time and according to specification.

During 2012 the enforcement of adherence to the contracts has resulted in the levying of Liquidated and Ascertained Damage amounting to over P 65 million and termination of two contractors.

Khama said project close out reports are being submitted to PPADB to enable them to act on cases calling for de-registration, suspensions and/or blacklisting of contractors or consultants who performed below the expected standards.

To further root out corruption and improve delivery of public infrastructure projects, government has introduced Project and Facilities Management Offices to monitor and ensure compliance with performance contracts.

RELATED STORIES

Read this week's paper