‘Re­think needed over low-cost hous­ing con­tracts’

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - PROPERTY -

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”.

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