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County backs proposed bill to tame rogue contractors

Rogue developers notorious for building substandard houses will be tamed, if the Built Environment Bill is passed into law, the Nakuru County Executive Committee Member (CECM) for Lands, Housing and Physical Planning, Francis  Mwangi has said.

Mwangi  observed that current legislation governing the construction industry that was enacted in 1968 had loopholes that were being exploited by ‘money hungry’ contractors, most of whom he said were not qualified and did not belong to professional bodies that oversee adherence to building standards.

Speaking  during a public participation on the Bill in Nakuru, the CECM noted that once passed into law it will greatly improve quality, safety and professionalism on the construction industry in the County.

He  urged the public to volunteer their views and seek clarifications where necessary with regard to the Bill since its implementation will impact greatly on the county as it gears for City Status.

The proposed law has multifaceted regulations that enforce building standards for safety, health, security and convenience.

“Comprehensive consultations will help in the improvement of the draft Bill. The proposed law will bring to abrupt end lucrative careers of rogue contractors responsible for recurrent disasters and deaths when buildings collapse.

It intends to end mediocrity in the construction industry and assure the public of quality workmanship and safety in the houses they live in.

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,” noted the CECM.

According to official statistics only 826 buildings out of 4,879 inspected by the National Buildings Inspectorate representing a mere 17 per cent were found to be structurally safe.

The whooping 4,053 structures had been constructed using substandard materials and the workmanship was poor.

The Bill proposes to replace the Architects and Quantity surveyors act cap 525.A new aspect in the real estate sector has been introduced by the Bill as once passed into law various construction industry players who have been unregulated, including Landscape architects, Interior Designers, Construction Project Managers and technicians will now be required to be registered.

Currently, many buildings in major towns countrywide are death traps as more than 60 per cent of buildings in Nairobi alone are bogus.

According to the Architectural Association of Kenya (AAK) six out of ten buildings in the capital city are not approved.

Also present at the Public Participation Forum were the National Building Inspectorate Secretary, Moses Nyakiongora, the Nakuru County Attorney, Caleb Nyamwange and the Speaker of the County Assembly, Joel Kairu.

Nyakiongora  said that Bill seeks to entrench uniformity of building standards through the merger 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.

“It is crafted to stop conflict and duplicity of functions among agencies, which makes it difficult for project owners to know where to seek help.

The Bill also outlines the legal mandate of the County Government in building control and makes provisions to build the capacity of devolved units to enforce the National Building Regulations through standards, technical assistance, and training,” stated Nyakiongora.

Mwangi noted that most real estate developers were keen on cutting costs and that they allowed their building to be occupied before being confirmed safe.

“We want a situation where contractors are professionals and not entities driven by profit. They should have a professional body just like architects and quantity surveyors, structural, mechanical and civil engineers have their body, among others” he said.

Nyamwange said if the Bill before Parliament goes through the Built Environment Regulatory Board it will be established and will be a platform for collaboration between regulatory agencies at national and county levels.

The Built Environment Regulatory Board, he said would curb 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.

The proposed law relates to the design, construction and maintenance of residential and commercial buildings. 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.

The Bill comes at a time when Kenya is among the most rapidly urbanizing in the region with an urban population growth rate of 4.4 per cent.

According to the 2009 census, the population of urban areas has increased by 26 per cent from 9.9 million in 1999 to 12.5 million.

Though 32.4 per cent of the population today lives in urban areas experts predict that urban dwellers will dominate national population by 2020.

However, a good number of the urban dwellers live in informal settlements with limited access to water, sanitation and proper housing.

Nyakiongora said in as much as 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 Gross Domestic Product, it must be policed to ensure quality work is done and proper materials used to deter further collapse of buildings

By  Anne  Mwale

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