‘Rethink needed over low-cost housing contracts’
NONE OF the larger developers or building contractors has ever objected to the state policy weighting the tender process in favour of previously disadvantaged contractors, especially with low-cost housing contracts, says Paul Henry, MD of Rawson Developers.
However, he says, some form of modification in the process is now necessary because many appointed contractors have proved themselves incapable of doing the job efficiently.
“On any private enterprise contract we have to finish on time and to the specifications. If we don’t we are heavily penalised, but on state housing it appears to be possible for the contractors, some of whom have had no previous building experience, to end late and get away with incredibly sloppy work,” says Henry.
“With too little knowledge of the tender process, certain newly arrived black empowerment firms will price ludicrously tight to ensure they get the job. Then, as the contract progresses, it will become increasingly obvious that they cannot make a profit and, in many cases, are heading for big losses.
“At that point 101 cost-cutting shortcuts are taken, most of which are illegal and all of which subsequently result in ongoing repairs being absolutely essential. All too often we encounter sites where plaster is falling off walls, bricks lack sufficient mortar to be structurally sound, doors do not close, there are gaps between window frames and walls or electrics fuse.”
Henry says the public bodies awarding these contracts should be far more sceptical when presented with tenders that are clearly below the going rates.
“All tenders should be carefully scrutinised and the contractor’s previous work (if any) inspected.” he says. Any tender by a contractor who is clearly not up to the job should be rejected or matched in a joint venture with an experienced contractor, he suggests.
“The whole ‘poor delivery’ complaint is fuelled all over again – despite the goodwill and the best efforts of the authorities.”
Henry is critical of official clerks of works and inspectors whose task is to monitor the building work as it progresses and on completion.
He is also highly critical of the NHBRC (National Home Building Registration Council) which he describes as “awash with funds but all too often negligent in inspecting the completed buildings of its members, as it is expected to do in terms of its constitution”.