The construction industry is the engine of infrastructure development in the country. The industry from independence has experienced substantial growth. For example in the period 1998 – 2008 whereas the GDP grew by 135.1% the construction output grew by 406.1%. Despite such growth, major construction works in Kenya have been undertaken by foreign firms due to lack of adequate local capacity in the industry.
The industry is currently characterized by fragmentation and lacking in scale, skills and organizational capacity. It is further unable to exploit construction opportunities in the expanding regional markets. Significantly with major local roads and railway concessionary agreements proposed or undertaken, the local industry remains a passive spectator in such public – private partnerships as foreign concerns make forays into the local turf.
This lethargy may be traced principally to the collapse of the National Construction Corporation in 1986 and the subsequent repeal of its Act in 1998. This Corporation established in 1967 had the following broad objectives:-
In its heyday, this Corporation enabled indigenous contractors to collaboratively and successfully execute a catalogue of major projects including Kenya Air Force air field Nanyuki, Kenyatta National Hospital Teaching complex, Ujenzi House (now Milimani Commercial Courts) Afya House, Kilimo House, Transcom House and Kileleshwa Pool Housing among others. The collapse of the NCC created a lacuna into which many local construction firms collapsed, were deregistered or downgraded in category of registration.
The result of this scenario is a continuous recurrence of collapse of buildings under construction in urban centres, poorly constructed infrastructure, shoddy workmanship and delayed completion of projects associated with cost over-runs, stalled projects and huge contractual claims. This has earned professionals and the whole sector bad reputation, with attendant allegations that local contractors cannot perform well. Suffice it to say the impact on the economy has been delibitating.
Yet, despite all these scenarios, local contractors have been complaining of being denied construction bids. But to win big construction tenders contracts, one has got to prove his competency by completing the work in agreed time and should be of good quality.
Unless the above challenges are mitigated the construction industry will be incapable of efficiently executing the large scale projects anticipated within the Vision 2030 and other projects within the region economic blocs.
Indeed the Vision 2030, the development blueprint for the period 2008 – 2030, envisage an efficient infrastructure base to drive all the other sectors for sustainable development. The construction industry has a crucial role to play in the realization of this vision.
It is with this in mind that the Ministries of Public Works and Roads have in collaboration with other infrastructure Ministries developed a draft bill for establishment of the National Construction Authority to provide the necessary legal and institutional framework to surmount these challenges.
The broad objectives of the National Construction Authority will be capacity building and training, registration and regulation of contractors. The current challenge to the Ministry is to prepare supporting regulations to give effect to the Act. The regulations will have to facilitate:-
These regulations will enable the Authority provide the much needed policy guidelines and direction that will put an end to shoddy works and curb collapsing building accidents while in the long term guarantee decent, secure and planned building structures in the country.