New legislation to supervise and ensure quality work in the construction industry could be introduced as early as next year, says James Sankwasa the Deputy Minister of Works and Transport.
Sankwasa says the legislation, currently in draft form, would address “Namibia’s worrisome situation where newly constructed buildings start cracking before they are occupied and roads disintegrate two years after construction”.
“We have lost control over quality assurance.”
“Do not look at how much money you are going to make but how much service and quality you add to this country’s development. Quality assurance should have inspectors that make sure that it is being maintained,” Sankwasa said, who chastised companies that sacrifice quality over profits.
“I, as one of the national leaders, am worried,” he said.
Sankwasa further said the other worrisome development in the construction industry is the proliferation of Chinese construction companies, as though Namibia does not have its own qualified companies to do the work.
He says he had asked state owned companies, under the works ministry, why there are no standalone Namibian construction companies bidding for work. He was told Namibian companies lack experience.
“Who gave these people [foreign companies] experience if not their own government? When are we going to give our people the experience so that they can compete outside the country? We need to do things that are right for this country,” he said.
Sankwasa was speaking at a gala dinner on Monday where civil engineering company, MPP Civils, was awarded the ISO quality assurance management certification from the Namibian Standards Institution.
According to NSI chief executive officer Chie Wasserfall, MPP Civils is now the seventh Namibian company with such a certification. MPP Civils is owned by young Namibian professionals and employs about 1 000 young people.
Sankwasa praised MPP Civils for getting the certification, saying, “It is important to get certified and know that I am certified.”
Commenting on the lack of quality work in the country, Sankwasa pointed at the example of other countries such as Morocco where buildings constructed in the 17th and 18th centuries are still standing without a crack.
“How do we rectify the situation in Namibia? I have engaged retired engineers, white engineers who have done things before us, to ask what we are doing wrong. The simple answer they gave me is that we have lost control over quality [supervision],” said Sankwasa.
He made a comparison of how good is the road between Ondangwa and Oshikango, constructed just before independence, yet newly constructed roads have developed potholes.
Sankwasa says through his interactions with the industry experts he has learnt that construction companies sacrifice quality to maximise profits.
“We had two wheelbarrows to one bag of cement, but it is now at five wheelbarrows, so you have more sand than cement,” he says.
Meanwhile Sankwasa says the new procurement bill would also mean that construction companies that deliver poor quality work would not continue to benefit from the public procurement system. However, he says the quality control system would not be punitive, but would give Namibian companies the chance to learn and get experience.
“Failure is a learning curve, it does not mean they won’t get tenders, otherwise how will they learn. If we start now then we will have the learning experience,” he said.