A proposed law in the construction sector could end lucrative careers for rogue contractors, who are blamed for the now common deaths after buildings collapse.
The Bill places them in a tight corner because it will be mandatory that every company has a built-environment professional (an architect or a quantity surveyor) as a senior partner or director.
In the event of the professional quitting or dying, the contractor’s firm is given a six-month lifeline to engage a new professional or shut down.
To enhance uniformity of building standards, the Bill proposes merging of professional regulatory boards to enhance supervision as well as come up with a single manual on regulations given that a multiplicity of boards is a major cause for confusion.
This is meant to end duplicity of functions among agencies, which makes it difficult for project owners to know where to seek help.
Solicitor-General Kennedy Ogeto said the ‘money-hungry’ contractors mushrooming around the country daily, could soon find their operations stopped if the Bill before Parliament goes through, establishing the Built Environment Regulatory Board.
“The construction boom is welcome as it helps ease the housing deficit, creates jobs and contributes up to seven per cent to the nation’s GDP, but it must be policed to ensure quality work is done and proper materials used to deter further collapse of buildings,” he said.
He observed that out of 4,879 buildings inspected by the National Buildings Inspectorate, 826 — nearly 17 per cent — were found to be structurally unsafe due to the use of poor materials and workmanship. Owners seemed keen to rush the construction and save on costs with the result that some buildings were occupied even before they were confirmed safe.
Speaking at this year’s Big 5 Construct East Africa Fair in Nairobi, Mr Ogeto said the existing construction laws must be firmly implemented with government agencies enhancing collaboration with sister departments to maintain safeguards that spur the establishment of secure and quality liveable spaces.
“Most contractors are not built-environment professionals, but commercial entities whose sole drive is profit. They are neither professionals nor members of any professional body that oversees adherence to any building standards.
“Structural, mechanical and civil engineers have their body, architects and quantity surveyors among others too, why not contractors?” he posed.
Mr Ogeto said the soon-to-be formed Built Environment Regulatory Board will be a platform for collaboration between regulatory agencies at national and county levels, curbing incidents whereby multimillion shilling properties standing on public land were approved only for the government to lose out in court and ordered to pay hefty compensation amounts following demolition of such properties.
“Public projects are also delayed when State agencies fail to collaborate to promote legal compliance and this is a major loophole that facilitates graft. The only way to enhance compliance is to enforce the building laws to the letter,” he said.
He said county governments need to supervise all construction work and stamp their authority to ensure all construction projects conform to the set standards.
The new law, once enacted, will place all stages and aspects of construction under one region with all professionals and contracting firms being brought under one umbrella for ease of supervision.
Architectural Association of Kenya President Emma Miloyo welcomed the development, but called for inclusive talks on the Bill, saying, they are keen to support new developments that will improve the quality of work done on future projects.