NCA seeks more bite in enforcing building code

A police officer controls crowd after a six-storey building collapsed collapsed at Tasia in Nairobi’s Embakasi area last year. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

The National Construction Authority (NCA) is now pushing for legal reforms that will give it prosecutorial powers in a bid to tame rising cases of buildings collapsing in the country.

The issue of structural integrity in the building and construction industry has been a major economic concern, with dozens of lives and millions worth of investments lost every year.

It is in light of this that NCA is now pushing for a review of the NCA Act No 41 of 2011 to give it teeth as it looks to restore confidence in the industry.

Executive Director and Registrar of Contractors Maurice Akech, who took up the reins at the State agency late last year, said it will not be business as usual. “Besides lobbying for powers that will enable us to prefer charges against all defaulters of sound practice in the building and construction industry, we are also preparing to launch the single window construction permit process which will ease the cost and process of doing business in the country,” he said during a recent visit to the Public Works Ministry offices after assuming office.

As the industry regulator, he said, NCA will harness effectiveness in the realisation of the housing pillar under the Big Four agenda.

Kiharu MP Ndindi Nyoro promised to spearhead legislative reforms in Parliament to enable NCA to discharge its mandate effectively.

 “The building and construction industry remains one of the most critical industries in all major towns and cities. I am working on a legal amendment that will, among other key reforms, give prosecutorial powers to NCA,” he said. Eng Akech said in his capacity as the Registrar of Contractors, he would ensure that local contractors have the capacity to take up major construction projects in the country and that quality assurance is enhanced to tame the rising menace of buildings collapsing.  

Currently, NCA has limited powers under section 23(2) of the NCA Act to suspend a site for noncompliance. Among the most cases of noncompliance involve the lack of sufficient hoarding and fencing, lack of an NCA compliance certificate and NCA accredited construction workers and site supervisors.

In fulfilling its mandate, the authority liaises with county governments that are the custodians of the building code, the police, Directorate of Safety and Health and the National Environment Management Authority.

 Public Works Principal Secretary Gordon Kihalangwa told Home and Away that he appreciates the existing challenges in the construction industry.

He said the ministry is looking to fast track the roll-out of an e-construction permit system, carrying out building audits to minimise incidents of structural collapses. “To underline the Government’s seriousness in reversing the tragedy in the sector, President Uhuru Kenyatta has ordered us policymakers at the ministry to set up a special inspectorate unit to inspect all buildings and to determine their suitability for human occupation,” he said.

Geoffrey Mungai, an engineering consultant in town planning said the sector lacks discipline since most of the buildings that end up collapsing, cracking or sinking lack requisite approvals.

“The Physical Planning Act 286 makes it mandatory for the licencing authorities to demand evidence of development permission before granting a licence for the occupation of a building. The Act also states that a building shall be constructed according to the specifications of a structural engineer,” he said.

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