Business News of Friday, 15 November 2013

Source: B&FT

Gov’t asked to prioritise construction industry

Successive governments in Ghana have not prioritised the construction industry, therefore the significance of the sector is ignored and challenges still remain, Rockson Dogbegah, Chairman of Berock Ventures, a local construction firm, has said.

Mr. Dogbegah also worried that government often delays payments to contractors because it is cash-strapped. “There are no proper budgets in place before contracts are awarded. It takes two to three years before payments are done.

“One would ask, ‘what kind of module is being run here?’ If it takes me two to three years before payment is effected for work done, do I also have to wait to pay my workers in two to three years?”

Mr. Dogbegah, who is also the Vice President of the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) Africa, said the result of these challenges is that contractors get into debt and become very unattractive to banks and private sector clients.

“If private sector clients know you are working on a government project, they become reluctant to give you work; because they feel that if they give you the job, you will use their money to service government projects or pay debts. That is the challenge.”

He told the B&FT in an interview that government must respect the construction industry’s contribution to the economy’s GDP, currently estimated at more than 10 percent.

“Once you appreciate this, then you prioritise the issues of industry with the intent of growing and developing the sector.”

Mr. Dogbegah said what other countries have done is to institute an industry development board and a regulator, whose prime duty is to develop the construction industry.

This regulator, which is supposed to be put together by government, will deal with issues of registration of contractors. And with an industry development board, contractors and construction companies will be put on a database and monitored -- so that no one company or individual is overloaded at any particular time.

“Currently, a contractor can do some shoddy work in the Northern Region and come to the Volta Region and do another shoddy work but walk free without being noticed. But with the industry development board there will be a database on you, and you will be followed closely.

“That board’s duty will be to streamline and develop the industry. It will make sure you use the right tools and human resource in the production process.”

Currently, Mr. Dogbegah is leading the advocacy for establishment of the board. With the support of the Business Sector Advocacy Challenge Fund (BUSAC), a coalition of professionals and associations has been formed called the BUSAC Steering Committee on the Built Environment Initiative.

This association is made up of all the professional institutions in the industry, including the Ghana Institution of Engineers (GIE), Ghana Institution of Surveyors (GIS), and Ghana Institution of Planners (GIP). Mr. Dogbegah is chairing the committee to advocate for establishment of the board.

“It takes the will of government to set up this board; we are currently doing research and sensitisation. We are hopeful that in two years we should have this body established.”