Uncontrolled competition may undermine construction projects
Published On January 2, 2014 » 2671 Views» By Hildah Lumba » Features
 0 stars
Register to vote!

Zambia Institute of arcitects logo

By Dixon Bwalya –

Requesting a Medical Doctor to submit a quotation for curing a headache would be considered as ridiculous as the request is imprecise.

A headache may be a result of malaria, high blood pressure or even a hang over after an excessive night of socialising and, therefore, for a Medical Doctor to determine what appropriate solution he should prescribe he will need to carry out some preliminary investigations to understand the cause of the headache

And thereafter he will prescribe the appropriate medical solution; it is after this process that a cost could be assessed.

Although most people fail to understand and appreciate this point this is however precisely the same procedure when offering architectural professional services and the same may apply to provision of legal professional services. In architectural consultancy most clients cannot describe in detail exactly what they want done but they expect an architect to “quote” for professional services to be rendered especially through Requests for Proposals.

This point is important especially now when there are some reports of some consultants who have been harassed under accusations of stifling competition in provision of architectural services by some stake holders.

The conduct of architects as well as the provision of architectural services in Zambia is controlled and regulated under the Zambia Institute of Architects Act, CAP 442 of the Laws of Zambia and Statutory Instrument number 106 of 1999. Under Part II- Unprofessional Conduct, Clause 5 (K) it is considered as unprofessional conduct on the part of an architect “Taking part in an architectural competition without the permission of the Council, unless the conditions thereof contain the clause ‘These Conditions have been submitted to and approved by the Council of the Zambia Institute of Architects”.

The current trend of clients procuring architectural consultancy services through Requests For Proposals (R.F.P.) especially those requests that also require submission of some kind of architectural schematic drawings are for all intents and purposes architectural competitions.

The intention of Clause 5(K) is not to stifle competition but rather to protect through streamlined architectural competitions both the architectural profession as well as the general public as is expected and stipulated under Part I – Professional Conduct of S.I. No 106 of 1999 where Clause 1 (b) states thus “An architect shall faithfully and diligently carry out the duties undertaken according to the terms of the contract of engagement and have a third party duty of care for any person expected to use or enjoy the product of the architect’s work” .

The Zambia Institute of Architects has had for some time now Guidelines for Conducting Architectural Competitions which are available to any member of the public wishing to conduct architectural competitions.

These Guidelines provide among other things guidance on how the competition should be conducted to ensure fairness, what premiums are to be paid out as prizes to the winning submissions and who qualifies to assess and judge the submitted entries and how much the judges are to be paid. Not all can be confident that all Requests for Proposals are adjudicated upon by persons qualified and fully familiar with architectural or indeed construction matters.

Apart from architectural competitions there are various other ways used to commission an architect including past experience and quality of architectural products executed by the architect and because of the nature of the services rendered as stated above the most equitable method of remuneration is on the basis of a per centum of the value of the project.

Various researches have established various trends and practices in provision of architectural services including a survey carried out by the Commonwealth Association of Architects in 1985 as well as a report on World Trends in Private Practice submitted to the International Union of Architects in 1993 by the American Institute of Architects.

In other words Conditions of Engagement for provision of architectural services have been in existence for some time some of which are standardized.

It has happened before where attempts have been made to seek architectural services outside the practice in trade which left a trail of destruction to the profession; these attempts include the architectural competition conducted for the Presidential Housing Initiative sometime back.

In this particular competition the sponsors conducted a competition outside the Competition Guidelines provided by the Zambia Institute of Architects and some architects participated against the Institute’s advice. The point is the winning entries were not constructed and the sponsors were free to cannibalize parts of the submitted designs without any payment or due regard to copyright restrictions because the participants unnowingly gave away their copyrights. What followed was blatant abuse of the profession followed by crying and gnashing of teeth by those who thought they had won the competition.

While Requests for Proposals for architectural projects are in essence competitions the R.F.Ps. are attempts by sponsors to receive multiple design options without paying for a single design; this is an abuse of the architectural profession and disadvantages those participating in a similar manner as the PHI case.

On the other hand it may be possible to use this method of procuring services to post-rationalize an already decided position in the commissioning of architectural projects. In the attempt to look as if a transparent process has been adopted it is possible and it has happened to request and receive three quotations from the same preferred supplier.

It is also possible for the unscrupulous architect to quote a very low amount to be charged because after all that is what the Procurement officer is looking for and once a job has been secured to either mount a spirited fight to have the fee increased after the project has commenced on the argument of increased scope of works or alternatively reduce the quality and quantity of services rendered to cut his losses. Once this happens the quality of the end product would be negatively affected to the detriment of not only the client or sponsor but the general public as well.

The procurement procedures under the Zambia Public Procurement Agency as well as the Competitions and Consumer Protection Commission Act tend to group procurement methods for such imprecisely defined professional services as architectural with such precisely defined items as procuring stationery for instance. Procuring professional services requires a different procuring process because where errors have occurred there may be not only hefty financial implications but may also negatively affect human safety. Procurement processes must also recognise the need for equity and fairness in the provision and procurement of services because even the most basic architectural designs take time and substantial intellectual outlay and where this is required the client ought to pay the cost and not to expect the consultants to shallow the cost as is the case in “Requests for Proposals”.

The concept of value for money does not necessarily mean the cheapest buy is the best buy especially more so in the construction industry which is fraught with slow-to-detonate mine fields; certain services may be best procured by other methods than requests for proposals.

The uninitiated may argue that contractors in the construction industry do get invitations to quote for building works but the two services, although both concern the construction industry, are completely different. The tender documents that are submitted to contractors to price do define the concern projects with much precision in terms of both the quality and quantity of the product being sought and all participating contractors use exactly the same documents in the tender process.

There is also the issue of the levels of intellectual input required during the design stage compared to the pricing stage. Architectural products are recognized as Intellectual properties whose copyright vests in the design architect as outlined under The Copyright and Performance Act; CAP 406 of the Laws of Zambia; most architectural competitions as was the case with the P.H.I. competition tend to ignore to recognize this fact for reasons that were and are still not convincing.

Laws are enacted for the betterment of humanity and where the Zambia Institute of Architects or its agents discourage their members from participating in some “architectural competition” this ought to be understood in its proper context and not an attempt to stifle competition. There is therefore absolutely no reason to behave like Munshebwa- yes that is the guy who visited his in-laws in soiled trousers. When there is a conflict in the laws of the land the best way is to understand the purpose of the affected laws and then harmonise such laws without harassing anyone.

FOR COMMENTS 0955 789960

Share this post

About The Author