The construction sector is set to get proper regulation as talks on the establishment of a Namibian Construction Council are underway.
This is in line with the government's commitment to have it promulgated before the end of the 2019/2020 financial year. The Construction Industry Federation (CIF) has for years fought to have the industry better regulated, and is thus hopeful that with a continued focus, it can be achieved.
In line with this fight, the establishment of the council will be one of the main topics to be discussed at the CIF's first annual construction conference and annual general meeting (AGM ) set for 14 and 15 November 2019.
Works and transport deputy minister Sankwasa James Sankwasa expressed his support and commitment towards the industry, and will talk on the necessity of establishing a council at the conference.
CIF's consulting general manager, Bärbel Kirchner, stressed the importance for the industry to get a council, saying businesses in their sector need to be registered to ensure that only those that are registered can tender for business - both in the public and private sector.
"This will ensure optimal quality in our sector, and at the same time avoid the middleman phenomenon. Although the CIF currently registers businesses in our sector, membership of the CIF is on a voluntary basis. Members of the CIF are guided by a code of conduct," she added.
Kirchner said the federation does not have the legal powers to monitor and police the sector. Thus, it is vital that "we up the game for the industry, and ensure any contractor operating in Namibia is registered and has the necessary capacity."
The envisaged council will ensure that only those who are registered and have the capacity to supply goods will be considered to avoid the non-deliverance from some local companies and middlemen who overprice tenders, as a result tarnishing the names of reputable local companies.
The Procurement Act calls for a list within the Public Procurement Unit that will help public entities when applying for exclusive preference to local suppliers, as contemplated in section 72 of the act. Public entities may use the register of bidders and suppliers referred to to determine whether a bidder qualifies for exclusive preference.
Moreover, the conference will also address the need for creating preferences for Namibian-owned contractors and businesses. This is because the federation feels strongly about the need to support local contractors, who find it difficult to compete with foreign contractors in these tough economic times, especially when it comes to the availability of finances, and the uneven playing field between local and foreign contractors.
Representatives from the Construction Industry Development Board of South Africa, as well as from the Zimbabwe Building Contractors Association, will also share experiences from their countries, in particular with regard to the regulation of their industries.
The industry stakeholders are likewise set to receive introductory training on financing through public-private partnerships (PPPs) at the annual construction conference.
Kirchner stated that during their high-level engagements with various ministers and authorities, it was highlighted that they should consider PPPs.
"One would assume that some of our larger contractors have already been sufficiently exposed to it. However, it remains still relatively foreign, and ultimately, PPPs can also be applicable for our smaller businesses, taking into consideration projects at local level," she added.
The conference is being organised by the CIF, and sponsored by First National Bank, Nexus Group Holdings, Saint-Gobain, Bank Windhoek, Peralin Paints, Namibia Construction, Team Namibia, Ohlthaver & List, Namibia Media Holdings, Cirrus Capital, Talisman Hire and Simonis Storm.
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* Additional reporting by Nginomenwa Erastus