NCA boss: Local contractors can’t do big projects

Daniel Manduku, executive director National Construction Authority taken on 7th October 2015. (PHOTO: WILBERFORCE OKWIRI/ STANDARD)

What have you achieved in the three years you have been in operation?

First, we have set up 20 offices complete with staff across the country. We have managed to push through our regulations through Parliament. In addition, we have registered over 30,000 contractors. We have also accredited about 150,000 construction workers and site supervisors.

We have completed the first mapping survey of technical training institutions in Nairobi and a similar exercise is being carried out in the other 46 counties. A comprehensive mapping survey report on training institutions is underway. The objective of this study is to reveal skill gaps in training institutions and come up with policy recommendations.

Why did you come up with a new code of ethics for contractors?

It describes the rights and responsibilities of every player in the construction value chain while laying the fundamental principles for their harmonious relationship in service delivery. It obligates all players to abide by professional codes and regulations.

Contractors should aim at meeting statutory and contractual obligations fully and in a timely fashion. It treats construction as a form of employment, with clauses on occupational health and safety, training and fiscal matters.

Many people got to know about NCA due to the X marks on buildings.

Is the mark is an indication that the building is structurally unsound and ready for demolition?

No, the mark does not mean the building is unsafe or structurally unsound.‎ We put the X mark when any of the following conditions have not been adhered to: When no NCA-registered contractor or accredited site supervisor is executing the project; when the project is not registered with NCA and thus no certificate of compliance; when there is no signboard on the construction site with details of consultants; lack of approved drawings for the project; no hoarding (security) around the construction site and; where health and safety of workers is compromised by lack of protective gear.

The project is good to go when all these parameters are met.

The construction industry still has cowboy contractors and buildings continue to collapse. What are you doing to deal with these issues?

The authority has put in place a raft of measures to curb rogue contractors who engage in unethical practices. Project registration ensures only registered contractors carry out construction works.

Through site inspection, buildings which do not comply with relevant laws are stopped by the authority and rogue contractors either suspended or have their names deleted from the register.

How many people have you prosecuted for practising without a registration certificate?

No contractors have been prosecuted so far. However, there are a few contractors under investigations following the collapse of some buildings in the recent past.

Does the authority have  powers to prosecute rogue contractors?

Any person or firm carrying out the business of a contractor in Kenya without registration under the NCA Act is liable for an offence under this law. The authority prosecutes such offences through the Director of Public Prosecution.

In your presentation during a media briefing recently, you stated that NCA’s work is hampered by lack of enough financing. How does this affect your operations?

As per the NCA Strategic Plan 2015-2020, the authority requires Sh27 billion for the five years in order to achieve key targets. However, to date, we have collected less than Sh1 billion from construction levy.

Let us do the maths. Last year, licensed construction projects were valued at Sh450 billion. That should mean that at the rate of 0.5 per cent of a project value, and with full compliance, we should have collected Sh2.2 billion. That has not happened. This means we have to scale down some of our activities such as training and capacity building.

Do you have any mechanisms in place to improve on revenue collection?

The authority has devolved its services to eleven regions to boost its revenue collection. The regional offices assist in registration of contractors and projects. The authority is also currently working on automation of all services to enhance compliance.

What is the authority doing about lack of properly trained artisans?

Only 17 per cent of artisans in the industry have formal academic training. One of the long-term plans of the authority is to establish national training and research institutes. We plan to train two million artisans by 2020.

How is the NCA handling perception that foreign contractors are favoured in government projects?

Eighty per cent of local contractors fall below NCA’s category 4. They lack financial capital, plant equipment and manpower. On the other hand, foreign contractors who are registered under category1 have proper capacity and preferred by most developers.

Currently, NCA is managing the issue through legislation where NCA law requires that a minimum of 30 per cent of any contract won locally by foreign contractors be undertaken by local contractors. However, the best way to manage this challenge would be through building skills and capacities of local contractors for them to compete with foreigners.

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