It is nearly a decade since enactment of the National Construction Authority Act 2011. There are indeed positive impacts we can point at in the industry since this law was created.
We have, after a long time, created a register of the vast majority building contractors. In fact, through public sensitisation by the authority, there is nothing held in high regards by the sector than a registered contractor with the National Construction Authority (NCA). It is nearly the first question everyone asks. It has worked!
Forget the debate as to whether contractors are genuinely registered in deserving categories. We can all agree that the ‘x’ red mark by the authority on buildings is known right into the villages to signal an irregularity in development or demolition as majority misconceive it. It’s commendable!
Outside the urgent need to give NCA prosecution powers, many in this sector will agree with me, that training of contractors that I can dare call the main objective of the Authority, hasn’t been well articulated as postulated. Sincerely, there isn’t much to draw from the current contractor training workshops and seminars other than the revenue it draws to the Authority.
But was the objective? Most of the trainings have been shallow on content, too theoretical and general in subject coverage.
In fact majority of contractors prefer to pay the seminar fees to earn the CPD points required for licence renewal but send their office messengers or tea girls to sit in. I fail to reconcile how you can gather 600 contractors in a hall and call it contractor training?
Secondly, I am hesitant to believe that NCA has the capacity to even train contractors. We must painfully begin the journey to this admission. The total number of registered contractors by the Authority is about 30,000.
That is nearly the total student capacity for an institution like the University of Nairobi. Juxtapose the training resources of the two bodies and therein lies my concerns. NCA lack in this area is in the sunlight.
Some pundits have argued that to remove training from the Authority after scrapping of its main revenue levies is to completely cripple it. They are right. Including the admission that the current contractor trainings could be just for that purpose only-revenue collection. Yet nothing should outweigh the capacity building of our contractors especially local.
Precisely why I have in the past advocated for the return of the scrapped NCA levies to properly fund the Authority and allow it to focus on the envisaged role. We don’t have the luxury to allow NCA be busy with revenue collection activities at the expense of plummeting contractor growth.
It is time the Authority fully delegated contractor’s training to institutions with capacity to effectively do so. If that means amending the Act, let us expeditiously do so.
I reckon NCA should request capable institutions in expertise areas they see gaps in to develop training curriculum for contractors and allow them to carry out the training.
They can have high level supervision. To add, this trainings should be tailored based on the contractor category. It is obvious that an NCA 6 category contractor, that is just entering the fore of contraction, requires different training needs in nearly all areas to the more established once in NCA 1 or 2 categories.
The lumping up of contractors during training should cease forthwith.
In my view, the delegation of training to competent institution would allow the Authority focus on other critical areas lagging behind in the construction industry – research and construction supervision. We must fast-truck entry of best construction practices including innovation of affordable construction materials.
This must be a national initiative and not left to private firms alone. Supervision of construction projects across the country must be enhanced. Collapse of buildings due to inadequate supervision must be completely wedded out. It is ruining the industry's name.
We have tasted the pudding for close to 10 years. Let us have the serenity to reflect and accept our shortfalls for this industry is to grow. Contractor training is not achieving much. Nothing is more required than changing course.
- The writer is chairman of Association of Construction Managers of Kenya. [email protected]