Official Opposition Leader Philip 'Brave' Davis.
By KHRISNA VIRGIL
Deputy Chief Reporter
THE Christie administration plans to clamp down on the construction industry through new legislation that will ensure contractors are properly licenced and can face heavy penalties, including the suspension or revocation of permits by the formation of a disciplinary board.
Hailing the Construction Contractors Bill 2016 as “inaugural, cutting edge and comprehensive”, Works Minister Philip “Brave” Davis said as it stands, Bahamian consumers have been exposed to a dangerous under-regulated industry.
This has left the door open to consumers being subjected to unscrupulous contractors, cost overruns and poor workmanship, he said.
Mr Davis, who is also the Deputy Prime Minister, said save for civil lawsuits, there is little recourse for those with complaints against contractors. However, with this new legislation, Mr Davis said many of the industry’s chronic problems will be remedied.
“Many are the stories of vulnerable consumers, particularly single women, who have fallen prey to ill-guided contractors - losing money and materials - paying deposits and seeing no work done by contractors that disappear,” he told parliamentarians.
“The Construction Contractors Bill provides specific and expedient remedies for complaints through a disciplinary board that could suspend or revoke the licence of a contractor and/or impose fines.
“The legislation will also establish a rating system for contracting companies (by) skill-levels from category one, for building a single-family structure, to category four, for building a large resort or casino.
“Contractors would have to meet certain criteria before they would be able to join the body and would have to demonstrate that they have successfully completed a project within the category of the licence for which they are applying. They would also have to show that their business licence is valid and that there are no outstanding complaints against them.”
He said the legislation will also provide for the alignment of construction contractors with their international counterparts. This is considered most valuable to contractors who seek to enter the international market or bid for jobs funded by international agencies such as the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), Mr Davis added.
The bill further provides for a consumer code, which will be applied to any type of construction work for a client. It also makes provisions for the establishment of a Builders Defects Compensation Scheme to deal with the defective workmanship of the builder towards a residential homeowner.
Dispute resolution is also contained in the legislation and the bill provides for written client/builder dispute resolution processes - mediation in the first instance and where that fails, then arbitration. Failing all, the bill provides the Supreme Court as recourse by litigation, the minister said.
“While the provisions of the Construction Contractors Bill clearly set the requirements for registration and licencing, it allows a period of transition for a person who was practicing as a contractor to continue to do so for a period of two years. It is anticipated that this is adequate time for practitioners to secure all requisites for registration and licencing.
“This government has always advocated forgiveness and the requirement for a second chance. For those who have run afoul of the law, there is always an avenue for reform. The legislation considers this and provides that the board cannot refuse to register any individual on the sole basis that he has a criminal record. That provision stipulates that the applicant has not re-offended within two years immediately preceding the application,” Mr Davis said.