Saturday, May 15, 2010

An insight into the building construction

THE contribution of contractors in the building and development of human settlement and infrastructure cannot be over-emphasized. Most of the buildings and road network in Tanzania boasts of today, were constructed by contractors. The contribution of local contractors in these areas is commendable especially after the official registration of the Tanzania’s building contractors’ board which came into being in 1997. Since then, a lot has been done in the construction industry in Tanzania together with addressing the perils of the building contractors and the construction industry as a whole. Local contractors have many problems ranging from own making to those thought to be beyond their control. Problems associated with lack of equipment and capital can be considered own-making because of several reasons, the most common is due to lack of planning and coordination. Many contractors thought that contracting is an easy way of making money. Unfortunately, this is not the case because contracting is a professional work. The Contractors Registration Board (CRB) was established to deal with incompetent contractors and ensure provision of both quality and safe work. The prospects for local building contractors in Tanzania is bright if the stakeholders of the industry are determined to solve the existing problems for the need of both domestic and industrial buildings, such as roads, bridges, dams, communication facilities and many other works related to construction that is growing every other day. Apart from the growing market of services, the contractors have a well represented and competent board that is committed to their interests and which can ensure a strong public-private sector partnerships for their development.

Engineers working in a building site

It is now time to look back and critically evaluate the status of a building contractor since the pre-independence days in Tanzania when the contracting business was mainly dominated by foreigners. Despite of the achievement that the local Contractors Registration Board has recorded the great number of the local contractors in the previous years, the board has also been able to reach out to nearly all contractors and engineering organizations in the country through industrial and zonal visits. Despite of the remarkable achievements attained so far in the building industry in Tanzania, still many construction workers in the country face imminent danger due to hazardous working conditions. Despite of a lot of development in the last decade in construction industry in Tanzania, there is a growing alarm over lack of equal development in awareness and safety and health facilities at different building sites in the country. A recently published detailed study by the CRB, puts forward a rejoinder on such horrible dangerous working conditions at various construction site in major urban centres in the country, handle piercing objects wearing neither helmet nor gloves. Results of the CRB descriptive survey conducted in 63 building sites in four regions in the country reveals that despite presence of laws and legislation binding directors to take health and safety precautions, none takes interest. Sometimes contractors are to blame. Some contractors take too much than they can bite prompting a contractor to share machinery and manpower. This hinders construction process as the contractor is forced to postpone some duties owing to lack of machinery. Payment of mobilization funds prior to construction can also delay projects. Sometimes contractors disappear immediately after they receive this fund. In most cases they abandon their equipment which might be worth very little in monetary terms. The survey shows that, Tanzanian local building contractors are not given enough priority and some are denied opportunity and challenges to demonstrate the competencies they posses.
This in effects amounts to denying them the opportunities and challenges that would enhance their capabilities and thereby enable them to grow. Many contractors are not happy with the situation especially in the construction sector whereby foreigners are given preference at the expense of locals being marginalized, and further they are not happy with the differential treatment, in remuneration packages in favour of foreigners in some of the foreign firms. On the contrary, for job performance, it is amusing to see that some foreign firms are employing their fellow foreign building contractors for jobs which are easily manageable by locals. According to one local contractor based in the city of Dar es Salaam, this is dangerous, risky and denies employment rights to those with requisite qualifications. Cases are known where some of such foreigners being paid handsomely could not deliver except through exploiting the poorly, in very junior positions and claiming total credit of the delivered output because of hiring incompetent personnel on a try and error basis an aspect that in such cases even the quantity of the finished works is shoddy.

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