We have no powers to stop faulty buildings, says housing regulator
By Moses Njagih
| December 1st 2016
Kenyans will continue dying in building collapses because the construction agency has no powers to stop rogue contractors and developers.
The National Construction Authority (NCA) said it cannot suspend works on faulty buildings even when it is clear the structure is a death trap.
NCA Chief Executive Officer Daniel Manduku yesterday told MPs contractors have taken advantage of loopholes in the law to flatly defy their orders to suspend construction of sub-standard buildings.
He told National Assembly's Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Housing that they can do a better job if only they can get powers to arrest and prosecute rogue contractors and developers.
"Another House committee watered down the Bill establishing the authority. Our efforts to seek teeth have been fruitless," Manduku said.
He added: "The Delegated Legislation committee declined to grant us powers saying it could not give us penal powers. That is why we cannot arrest contractors or developers defying our orders to stop a construction."
Manduku said the situation has been complicated further by police officers who have refused to cooperate with them.
"The only option the authority has is to report such cases to the police to arrest and prosecute offenders. However, in most cases, no action is taken," he said.
He recounted an incident involving a contractor whom they reported at the Central Police Station in Nairobi after he defied orders to halt a construction. "We were forced to give up the fight after it emerged the officers were not keen to take action."
"When we visited the station months later to find out why no arrests had been made, we were told officers were still studying the law to know which offence to charge the contractor with. We gave up."
Members of the committee said it is wrong to have the body and deny it powers to do its job.
"The authority seems to lack powers to curb the menace. It is sad we are pegging our hopes on a body that does not have powers," said Luanda MP Chris Omulele.
Committee chairman, Starehe MP Maina Kamanda, directed that Interior CS Joseph Nkaissery be summoned to explain why police officers are compromising the war against rogue contractors and developers.
"We cannot allow Kenyans to continue living in death-traps just because some officers are being compromised. The minister must appear before us and tell us how this fight will be won," said Kamanda.
Manduku and Housing PS Aidah Munano said the NCA Act should be amended to adequately grant the body powers to act on rogue contractors.
"There is need to amend the Act to define offences on construction deficiencies and fines for such offences," Manduku said. The two had appeared before the committee over the building that collapsed in Kisii recently, killing 10 people.
The PS and NCA boss were responding to concerns that they only come out after disasters have happened and lives lost.
However, Manduku and Ms Munano defended themselves, saying they had condemned almost all the collapsed buildings only that they lack powers to stop the constructions.
He said they had ordered that construction of the Kisii building be stopped. However, the directive was ignored and the building went up to 10 floors before it collapsed.
Munano announced the ministry has developed a Bill she hopes will help address loopholes in the law and end tragedies the sector has been witnessing.
This came as the ministry and NCA began investigations to ascertain the safety of a Sh1 billion multi-storey building in Kisumu.
Additional reporting by Maureen Odiwuor
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