LETTERS: Role of building consultants in housing goal

A housing project. FILE PHOTO | NMG

While corruption, poor policies, lack of proper supporting infrastructure and lack of government goodwill have had their hand in muzzling the construction industry’s potential, a significant portion of the blame must be directed towards the professional consultants operating in the industry.

We shall refer to these consultants as the good people in the context of our analogy.

The professionals operating within the construction industry are many and varied in discipline.

From the more technical roles of the architects, engineers and quantity surveyors to the supporting functions borrowed from the legal, procurement, business and finance sectors – real estate and construction provide a space wide enough for many different specialties to ply their trade.

How well, professional and soberly these players execute their roles spells the difference between a thriving industry and the local example we are facing here.

The government, through the various agencies that mandate and regulate the technical professions needs to create a system through which these professionals give back to the society.

While giving back is most times thought of as being a charity activity, by creating a properly structured pro-bono technical consultancy services framework, the government can create a win-win situation for all stakeholders involved.

The legal profession has made some advanced strides in providing legal aid to criminal suspects who cannot afford an advocate, in keeping with the rights provided in the constitution.

This, though is yet to be fully realised on a mandatory scale. Borrowing from their experiences and considering that one of the main outputs of construction – housing – is a basic need, the regulatory agencies within the building construction industry can build up on this advancement and thereby guarantee the provision of technical consultancy services to the sectors of the economy who cannot afford or those who lack the procedural knowhow.

Most of the times when cases of collapsed buildings are reported in the country, the professional bodies representing these professions in the country come out to disown the individual named as the architect and engineer in the specific development terming him a quack.

The common advice has always been for developers to hire professionals duly registered by the relevant government agencies. This advice is practical in developments within upmarket neighbourhoods and maybe for public facilities.

For a developer putting up a residential profit somewhere in Huruma or Pipeline – some of the estates notorious for building disaster calamities - would feigning or honestly being ignorant of the existence of an institution that registers architects or engineers may apply.

For a country with close to 800 registered Architects almost half that figure for Quantity Surveyors, based on latest figures from the Board of Registration of Architects and Quantity Surveyors, and very many competent registered structural, electrical and mechanical engineers, we can do better.

The country has the capacity to allocate each residential development in the country to a technical professional team of competent standing, from design to supervision, guaranteeing safe and decent houses as per the provisions of Article 42 of the Constitution.

The government can and should support this initiative by giving tax rebates to consultant firms offering these pro-bono services and make it even more attractive by declaring it a pre-condition when tendering for government projects.

Government can then recover this tax by imposing a reasonable charge on the developer once his facility starts earning revenue.

With the recently released census figures and judging from demographic projections presented, the urban population is rising at a rate much higher than the corresponding rate with which the housing sector is meeting the market demand.

It is time the government and delegated agencies start thinking creatively and for the good men to do something, if we are to adequately deal with the challenges the future presents.

Felix Ndolo, via email

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