‘Clean up mess in construction’


Tribune Business Editor


The Bahamian Contractors Association’s (BCA) president yesterday said the industry is optimistic that the Davis administration will take the final steps to “help clean up the mess” in construction.

Michael Pratt told Tribune Business that the sector hopes the Government will act “quickly” to ratify the long-awaited Construction Contractors Board that will finally bring self-regulation to Bahamian construction after a 30-35 year effort.

While the required law was passed under the former Christie administration, with now-prime minister Philip Davis QC leading that effort, the licensing and certification regime for Bahamian contractors has yet to be given effect because the Board - which will oversee this process and its enforcement - has yet to be appointed some five years later.

Given Mr Davis’ previous involvement, Mr Pratt said contractors were hopeful efforts to appoint the Board and implement the legislation will now gather some momentum post-election. He added that the BCA would likely seek to meet relevant Cabinet ministers and officials early in 2022 once the election of its own new slate of officers and directors was completed.

“We anticipate having a discussion shortly on moving that forward,” the BCA chief said of the Act and the Board. “We are optimistic we will have more traction on that. This same administration were the ones that got the original Bill enacted. It was done by then-deputy prime minister Davis, now prime minister. He pushed that and got it through.

“The only thing we have to do is put the Board in place. It was never put in place by the Christie administration at the time because an election was right around the corner, and it was never put in place by the Minnis administration. There was just a constant promise it would be done shortly, but it was never done.

“We’re hoping they put it in place quickly. It will go a long way to helping clean up the mess we have now. Some of the things in the Act deal with what is consumer protection. The Board would be able to licence the contractor, and they’d not be able to work under just a Business Licence. They’d have to be licensed” for construction.

Under the Act, Bahamian contractors are to be licensed and certified according to their ability and qualifications, as well as the scale and scope of work they are capable of undertaking based on past jobs they have performed. They were, under the legislation, to be placed in a tier system, from one to four.

The ranking was to be decided by an accreditation committee and, through this, builders will gain experience via training seminars and trade exhibitions. They will, for the first time, be recognised locally and internationally as licensed building contractors.

This is designed to place them on a “level playing field” with foreign contractors, enabling them to better compete for foreign multi-million dollar contracts on foreign direct investment (FDI) projects that come to The Bahamas because their capabilities are certified.​

And the Act was also designed to give Bahamian consumers, especially homeowners, greater protection against shoddy workmanship that - for many - negatively impacted their greatest investment, while also providing a mechanism to hold guilty contractors to account.

Mr Pratt yesterday said the Act mandates that all contractors possess the appropriate level of liability insurance. This would be used to finance the costs incurred in remedying poor workmanship, with the Construction Contractors Board able to appoint another contractor to complete the job, he added.

The BCA chief said the legislation’s implementation, and use of such enforcement powers, would help “begin to eradicate the image that contractors abandon homes before they are finished. These are the things the Bills allows for”.

Construction is thought to be the Bahamian economy’s last remaining professional industry without self-regulation, with Mr Pratt comparing its plight to the medical and legal professions that both have their own governing/supervisory bodies.

“If you look at the legal fraternity and the medical fraternity, imagine if the legal profession had people popping in and out doing bad work, and doctors doing surgery all over the place with no protections. Imagine the same thing with the construction industry,” he added.

“We build homes. For a lot of people that’s the biggest investment for the rest of their lives. It’s important we get this industry regulated. It will go a long way to educating the consumer and the customer. It will produce a better product, and although it will take a while to get it worked up I believe it will take out many things that exist with no regulation,” Mr Pratt said.

“We’re trying to recover from Dorian and COVID-19, and right now our construction industry needs to be better regulated so it benefits the economy. The Association has been in place for 60 years. We’re trying to improve the industry. The legislation has been discussed for 30-35 years. We’re still working at it and have not given up.”


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