The Construction Industries Federation of Namibia (CIF) considers the establishment of a national construction council a most critical and crucial step towards maintaining and further developing the local construction sector. While similar legislation was already tabled in Parliament in 2010, this was however not passed by the legislature.
Since then the CIF says, it not only engaged with the respective minister of the Ministry of Works and Transport but also wrote to every Member of Parliament in 2016 and highlighted the importance of legislation that would regulate the industry.
A national construction council would require that all businesses that operate in the construction sector are registered with the council. At the moment, anyone can operate a business in the building and construction sector, without proof of previous experience.
According to CIF leadership, the federation had several engagements with various authorities, including the National Planning Commission and the works ministry in order to highlight the urgency and importance to support local businesses in the construction sector.
“During the discussions with authorities, it became very clear that across the board, all local construction companies are being scapegoated for poor quality work and non-completion of government projects. The member-based organisation, CIF, fears that this is used as an argument against awarding projects to Namibian-owned businesses,” read a statement from the CIF.
Bärbel Kirchner, consulting general manager of the CIF said: “We have had meetings with the authorities, who are concerned about workmanship and that projects are being deserted. That is indeed a very bad situation, as this surely leads to a waste of taxpayers’ money as often related building or infrastructure can then not be occupied and utilised for its purpose. For this reason, we will continue to lobby government for the establishment of a national construction council, which would play a most important role in regulating the industry.”
In 2019, the Namibia Economic Growth Summit was held at the Safari Court Hotel, from 31 July to 1 August, which was organised by the High-Level Panel on the Namibian Economy. At the summit, a pledge was made by the government that they would commit themselves to legislate a national construction council before the end of the last financial year.
“We had high hopes that indeed our industry would finally be more regulated through the establishment of a construction council. This has not happened before 31 March 2020. We believe that in terms of the latest development, we can blame it on Covid-19, however, we are extremely hopeful that minister Mutorwa will indeed drive the enactment of a national construction council,” said Kirchner.
“We believe that years of inertia relating to securing a better regulated environment for our sector must have been due to limited will to drive this forward, and clearly, a preference for a more unregulated environment, where construction businesses do not have to register with any authority, where proof of previous work completed does not appear to be a requirement. We are therefore delighted to see minister Mutorwa’s current commitment and hopeful that soon Namibia will have a council in place.”
The member-based CIF is an organisation where businesses in the sector register on a voluntary basis in order to have their interests represented. However, as the CIF is not a statutory body, it does not have the mandate to monitor or police any construction sites. Members of the organisation, which currently stand at around 280 businesses, are however obliged to self-regulate and adhere to the CIF’s code of conduct.
“That said, quality and completion of projects can also be secured, if the clients and their principal agents effectively and regularly monitor respective projects, irrespective of how remote the construction sites are,” read the CIF statement.
CIF leadership is also of the opinion that a construction council would be able to better control and shape the industry.
Read the statement: “With its mandate, it would be in the position to determine what size of projects should be awarded to a certain size of contractors. This is to ensure that projects can be effectively completed. Registration and classification of contractors – including foreign contractors – would be based on previous work completed. It would also ensure that well-established contractors would not be able to tender for projects that are more suitable for SMEs. The same would apply for large-size projects that would be more appropriate for contractors with the requisite experience.”
Kirchner concluded: “There is a range of problems in our industry, which can be brought back to the faulty selection of contractors as well as the lack of appropriate monitoring of contractors by respective client authorities. In addition, there appears to be a reluctance to explicitly address the phenomena of ‘tenderpreneurism’ as well as the engagement of foreign contractors, irrespective of Namibian contractors having more than adequate capacity. All of this can be solved through the establishment of a national construction council and we really think that it is critically important to optimally shape our industry for our sustainable economic development and employment creation.”