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Contract breach: Unsupervised works led to Sigiri Bridge collapse

BUSINESS
By John Mosonik | Oct 22nd 2017 | 3 min read
By John Mosonik | October 22nd 2017
BUSINESS
The Sigiri Bridge in Budalang'i which collapsed on Monday, June 26, 2017 Photo:Courtesy

Following the collapse of the Sigiri Bridge in Busia County early this year, the contractor has embarked on building the structure afresh, and in strict adherence to the conditions of contract and risk management provisions therein.

The Sigiri Bridge project was conceptualised under the Design, Build and Maintain concept.

The tender invitation from Kenya Rural Roads Authority (KeRRA) went out in September 2014, for which contractors registered by the National Construction Authority were eligible to bid and an evaluation undertaken by professionals to ensure value for money in accordance with Public, Procurement and Disposal Act. The process was purely market-driven to ensure accountability and transparency.

The contract was awarded to the contractor, China Overseas Engineering Company (COVEC), on March 5, 2015 at a cost of Sh992.5 million. The scope entailed the construction of approach roads, bridge works, and culverts, preliminary and supervisory services. The design and construction period was earmarked for 18 months while the maintenance period was five years.

DESIGN CHECKS

In a typical design, build and maintain concept, the parties to the contract are the employer, employer’s representative, the contractor and the contractor’s representative. The terms of the contract allow the employer to appoint a representative, which in the case of this specific project was the general manager (design and construction), represented by a resident engineer whose role is programme monitoring, inspections to ensure compliance with contract provisions, design checks and certification of interim payments and the final account. 

Typically, the contractor is expected to undertake the project design, construct and maintain the works after commissioning. A design-build and maintain contract runs on the principle of single point responsibility. It is thus the contractor’s sole mandate to carry out and complete all the works described in the contract.

In addition, the contractor is also responsible for default of his sub-contractors, setting out the works, setting up a quality assurance system, protection of the environment, preparation of progress reports and ensuring security on site.

Significant to note is the fact that any resultant liability on such projects lies with the contractor until the same is handed over to the implementing authority or employer, in this case, KeRRA.

According to a technical report on the collapse of the mid-span of the Sigiri Bridge during construction, which we have received, the failure occurred due to wrong scheduling on the placement of concrete. Equally important, the collapse was caused by works undertaken outside authorised working hours without supervision.

FORTIFIED FROM LOSS

The responsibility for the collapse and the conveyance of is placed on the contractor as per the contractual documents. The Government and by extension the taxpayer, are fully fortified from any possible financial loss by the performance guarantee, insurance and for the delays covered by liquidated damages.

Going forward, we are more than determined to see the project - which consists of the 100m bridge and approach roads - to its fruitful completion so that residents can begin enjoying its full utility. However, this must be achieved in strict adherence to established engineering principles and the highest standards of integrity.

The contractor is under very firm instructions to rebuild the bridge in readiness for commissioning by the end of the year. KeRRA, which is the implementing agency for rural roads in Kenya will be overseeing the contractor under a strict regime to ensure full compliance with the provisions of the contract. The bridge will undergo a thorough commissioning and integrity test before it is handed over to the Government.

While the collapse of the Sigiri Bridge was a rare deviation, the Ministry would like to evaluate and build on this unfortunate experience. It is imperative that critical lessons are learnt from it so as to avoid the possibility of future occurrence. As a department, and to serve as an example to others, we have already instituted disciplinary action against a number of project supervisors, who are employees of KeRRA and the contractor.

Equally significant, we have commissioned a thorough audit of ongoing projects of similar nature to ensure that engineering integrity is maintained on all of them at all times and stages.

 

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