The Minister of Infrastructure, Science and Technology, Jonny Swartz, last week raised concern at the escalating reports of corruption perpetrated by stakeholders in the construction industry, which he said has left major government projects paralyzed.
Addressing a consultative meeting attended predominantly by captains of the construction industry, Swartz said that government projects almost always experience cost overruns, which puts a dent on the government purse.
“Very few projects are completed within the prescribed time. If they do, then the quality of the end product leaves a lot to be desired,” he said.
Swartz also said that statistics from the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime show that the Ministry of Infrastructure, Science and Technology is one of the most corrupt.
“This is a source of grave concern to me; as such practices greatly compromise our integrity. This perhaps explains why government projects are always competed behind schedule, with massive cost overruns and poor quality” he said.
Swartz further said that government as the major consumer in the construction industry should not be complaining about the quality and integrity of the enterprises that it does business with.
“We are presently faced with problems ranging from the collapse of new buildings, poor workmanship and unethical practices in the construction industry. It is up to us as stakeholders to step in and raise the level of quality of service delivery in the construction industry” he said.
While government appreciates some of the challenges facing the industry, among them shortage of skilled labor, there is a concern that the industry is not doing much to address issues which are within their control. Such issues, said Swartz, include unprofessional and unethical conducts among construction industry stakeholders.
“It is my view that the industry is doing nothing or very little to ensure that those who operate within it do so with high degree of professionalism and integrity. They have little or no regard for national interest, with respect to the role expected of the industry in the development of this country,” he said.
He added that the majority of contractors do not only compromise the quality of their work, but also compromise the safety of their employees. He cited common practices in many construction sites around the country, where employees are often not provided with protective clothing.
“These examples are a blatant disregard of our labor laws and safety best practice,” he said.
Supervising consultants were also not spared as they were accused of turning a blind eye to such acts, despite the fact that they are charged with the responsibility of safeguarding the interests of government and the public.