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Council should not be a rubberstamp

LAST week the Ministry of Public Works convened a meeting with construction companies to discuss the establishment of a special regulatory council for the industry.
It’s encouraging that someone in government has finally decided to clean up the mess in our construction industry.
Such a regulatory council was long overdue.
For years we have watched companies do shoddy jobs on the government’s construction projects.
Without a regulator the contractors have taken to cutting corners to maximise profits.
Some have made millions of maloti and become filthy rich despite their notoriety for messing up construction projects.
Their bridges have collapsed and their roads have been washed away barely a few months after they were commissioned.
Quality of their work on government schools, clinics and offices leaves a lot to be desired.
Yet year after year these same companies with a rich history of poor workmanship have landed more lucrative government tenders.
While corruption has contributed to this mess the lack of a regulatory board has made it worse.
Because they are not answerable to any higher authority apart from the government, the contractors have disregarded basic construction standards with impunity.
The idea, according to officials in the public works ministry, is that the council, which will be made up of experts in the construction sector, will put a stop to this rampant unprofessional conduct.
The council will be made up of civil engineers, surveyors and other professionals in the sector.
While we accept that this is a step in the right direction we feel obliged to mention that we foresee serious problems arising during the selection of people to man that council.
We suspect that if the government is not prudent enough that council might be turned into a mere rubberstamp.
There is a danger that the large construction companies might use their muscle to stuff the council with people who will do their bidding.
That is why we are insisting that the selection of that council must be based on transparent procedures that have strong checks and balances to avoid manipulation.
This is very important for the credibility of the council and the quality of work it will do.
If the selection is compromised there is no way the council will be able to deliver on its watchdog role and be a fair adjudicator when disputes arise.
The council is a chance for the construction sector to clean itself of unscrupulous, corrupt and incompetent contractors wont to compromising quality for more profits.
It is in the interest of the construction industry that this council be established to level the playing field.
If clear standards are established then everyone will be obliged to play a fair game.
Now is the chance for the government and construction industry to put things right.
The government cannot continue to lose money to contractors who cheat their way to complete construction projects.
The private sector and individuals need to be assured that if they have problems with a contractor they can get justice.
We have seen the positive impact of such regulatory councils in law, accounting, journalism and many other professions.

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