PRESIDENT, Dr. Mohamed Irfaan Ali, has issued a call to all contractors to ensure that works assigned to them are not only done in a timely manner but that they are done in keeping with the required standards and within the parameters of cost.
The President’s call could not have come at a better time when the country is experiencing one of the highest levels of growth and economic expansion in its history. Much of that growth and expansion is triggered by massive government expenditures in infrastructural development.
Billions of dollars are being spent on a wide array of infrastructural works such as road and bridge construction, construction of new buildings and maintenance works. Several oil and gas- related projects are also on stream or soon to come on stream, which taken together, will result in a major overhaul of the physical and social landscape of the country.
The role of contractors and consultants in ensuring that the capital programme of the country is executed in a timely manner and within the framework of cost and quality cannot be overemphasised. Apart from contributing to the implementation of the government’s work programme, it is also vital in terms of job creation and the multiplier effect such employment could have on personal incomes and consumption levels.
Any failure therefore on the part of contractors to complete works awarded to them represent a loss not only to the government but to the people in general who are deprived of jobs and the services which the projects were intended to engender.
It is a fact that many contractors are in default when it comes to capacity and, as such, many capital projects languish because of lack of building capacity and poor management of the work plan. There are cases of collusion between contractors and consultants to get cost variations which were not catered for in the work contract. And while there may be some genuine cases of cost overruns, the extent and frequency of such cost overruns cannot be overlooked by accounting officers and those in position of authority.
One new development is the decision by the Office of the Auditor General to undertake a “value for money” audit to ensure that works are executed in keeping with cost, quality and time as stated in the contract. This is necessary at this time when so much money is being expended to build new infrastructure and upgrade existing structures. Importantly, there must be adequate and strong penalty clauses in the contracts to ensure that the government is compensated financially for any default or lapses on the part of contractors.
As stated by President Ali, there is always room for growth and contractors must learn to take constructive criticism and refrain from bidding for works for which they lack capacity or in some cases where there is over-capacity. Such works could be better handled by smaller contractors at the local level, which, in addition to building local construction capacity, could also help in terms of employment generation at the local level.
There cannot be business as usual on the part of contractors when it comes to the spending of public funds. The President, on his part, has indicated that ‘every ounce of his energy and that of his government’ will be spent on achieving the mandate of the people in the realisation of the plans, programmes and policies of the PPP/C administration.
It is for contractors to do likewise and in the process create what President Ali described as a ‘winning culture’ where all parties benefit from the government’s policies and programmes.