Recently, while in my village, I drove around to bear testament of its inevitable changes. Although gradual, the village’s development is marching forward. Electricity connection here, borehole water there and a host of new developments of single dwelling houses and business premises are springing up. It is welcome and devolution is at the heart of it.
Still, a lot of obvious work remains to be done to help our people carry out developments in the village. Africa is known as the new frontier of the world’s developments and Kenya, considering its strategic location, has an undoubted essential role to play.
But we will not effectively play this role with our current lax mindset that somehow this is a role to be played only by major towns like Nairobi. We must move quickly to enable ease of developments in our towns and villages. Currently, it is a painful mirage.
Let us paint the picture; there is a law requiring that all projects, even a single house, be undertaken by registered professionals. Brilliant law indeed, to streamline our industry, but the question is where are these professionals? Nearly all are in Nairobi.
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How does a teacher who wants to build a house in the village access a registered architect and engineer? Majority of counties do not even have them in the first place.
It has become a preserve of the privileged who can afford their costs from the capital or major towns. No wonder there is many poorly developed houses in our towns and villages. You will nearly not miss a story or two in every village of a certain house with huge cracks or quality issues.
County governments in their infinite strive to raise revenues, have deployed personnel to harass every person carrying out developments without much regard for anything other than the money. Regulatory authorities like the National Construction Authority (NCA) continue to grapple with understaffing issues due to strained budgetary allocations. It is a challenge for them to even supervise the major towns, let alone the villages. To be honest, down there, we are being sustained by the deity grace. Devolution was to bring services closer to the people, it is time it does so in all aspects.
I suggest the counties liaise with construction professional bodies for some kind of partnership. These bodies, through their registered members, can then develop prototype single dwelling housing designs for the counties to issue to the people at a small fee.
This can include a budget estimate from quantity surveyors for each prototype house. Simple. On top of giving counties revenue, this will ensure the houses being constructed are properly designed by competent professionals.
Bringing services to the people is the backbone of our counties, right? All someone desiring to construct a house will do is to walk to their county government offices and choose a house design of their choice and budget, pay the fees and walk back home to prepare for construction. The onus will then be on the county to carry out inspection of the works.
Again, considering county governments are short of registered construction professionals, they can work with various professional associations for betterment of our country.
I still believe the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) should have pronounced itself boldly on this matter before recommending more development resources to counties. Our struggle will definitely be heavy, the risk numerous, the losses cruel but success, when it comes, will make amends finally. Let us explore these ways.
- The writer is chair of Association of Construction Managers of Kenya.