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New construction bill proposes radical changes to the sector

By Jeckonia Otieno | July 21st 2017
By Jeckonia Otieno | July 21st 2017

In a bid to tame rogue contractors and ensure accountability in the construction sector, a bill has been introduced in Parliament to ensure that each construction project has a professional manager.

The bill introduced in Parliament in March seeks to have Kenya follow in the footsteps of South Africa, which is the only country in Africa with such an arrangement where the manager oversees the process of construction.The bill will await the next Parliament.

A referee

This has brought to the fore a hitherto little-known profession known as construction management, which has professionals trained in managing construction projects. Nashon Okowa, chairman of the Association of Construction Managers of Kenya (ACMK), says this would be the silver bullet that will bring an end to the lack of accountability in the building construction sector.

“In developed countries, each construction project has a project manager; traditional development projects had an architect who was everything in overseeing the project, but this will change if the bill is passed,” says Okowa.

The project manager, Okowa notes, acts like a referee and oversees what all the other players are doing and ensuring that they play according to the book. He asks, “As matters stand currently, suppose the architect implements a wrong design, who questions?”

Nairobi has witnessed its fair share of buildings collapsing and Okowa says that at times it is difficult to hold anyone to account because there is no single person overseeing what the others are doing.

In April last year, a building collapsed in Huruma, killing more than 50 people. The owner of the building was arrested and arraigned in court. Just last month, another building collapsed in Kware area of Embakasi, killing at least five people and leaving other injured.

Okowa says this will remain the order of the day for as long as there is no single person to be held responsible in managing construction

“Take an example of the fire in a residential apartment in the UK last month where the project manager pointed out that the ability of the fire cladding had been questioned but approved by local authorities and this shows where the heat should be deflected during investigations,” says Okowa.

Need for managers

He says a project manager should be available to answer questions and all them should be members of the association. Currently, the ACMK has 202 members. Okowa urges that counties must also start employing chief construction managers just like they have chief quantity surveyors or engineers.

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