Accountability in construction industry
Published On January 15, 2014 » 3267 Views» By Hildah Lumba » Features
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 By Neville Ravensdale –

Accountability is perhaps one of the most pernicious problems facing Zambia, because the lack of it which results from carelessness and corruption and the cost of GRZ waste and corruption is crippling.

A recently constructed rein-forced concrete bridge collapsed along the Maramba River near Libuyu Village. Livingstone.

In principle (and I believe at Law) this is a very serious incident.

As an Architect with 49 years working experience in Zambia I know how carelessly buildings works are often carried out and I am compelled to comment as follows:

There are clear guidelines on good practice for building procurement that all professionals trained to design and supervise building construction works are aware of.

On the one hand, the Client who wants works carried out wants to be sure about the quality of design and construction, time required for construction and cost of construction.

On the other hand, someone must be responsible for third party interests arising out of any accidents or construction failures emanating from the building works. The public has the right to hold those who build responsible for public safety and interests whether the construction is a plot boundary wall, store room or a new International Airport. If the roof blows off and kills someone – someone must be held accountable for that.

In the process of building construction we have a designer, a builder and an independent supervisor to control the contractor, of which any or all may be negligent in their duties which result in “accidents.”

This article is written to Government to remind them that the current situation in Zambia has resulted in the following:

• Anyone designs

• Anyone builds

• Very few projects are properly supervised

This is a problem at Local Council level where they ignore CAP 442 of the Laws of Zambia and most of the design work is done by Council employees and their affiliates. The people of Zambia do not elect a Government to grab work away from the Private Sector. Civil Service corruption often hinges on the fact that GRZ allows Civil Servants to run their own private businesses while abusing their GRZ office facilities, trading with Government, compromising their professional integrity, being absent from office on their own business, and reducing the Civil Service to a self service.

The Ministry of Local Government and Housing must deal with the issues at Town Councils and Parliament must restore a Civil Service that is dedicated to working for the people of Zambia.

There must be someone responsible for each building work in Zambia, who “signs off” the completed works as being “satisfactorily completed” and who takes responsibility for any disasters that subsequently happen. This responsible person should keep all relevant records of what was done by who in the course of construction verifying that all good practice procedures were followed.

In the case of the Maramba River Bridge collapse, it appears from the photographs in the newspapers that no vehicle or heavy load was imposed on the bridge, nor were people injured, which is fortunate.

This is another lesson that should result in clear decisive action by Government to prevent such clear cut incompetence or carelessness from re-occurring, so far as is possible.

(The author is a member of the Zambia Institute of the Architects Ndola chapter )

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