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Contractors Act reform must prevent ‘storm’

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Leonard Sands

By NEIL HARTNELL

Tribune Business Editor

nhartnell@tribunemedia.net

The Bahamian Contractors Association’s (BCA) president yesterday said the Government is prioritising reforms that will prevent a “storm” erupting in the sector through “thousands” of persons potentially being barred from obtaining licences.

Leonard Sands told Tribune Business he was writing a letter to Alfred Sears QC, minister of public works and utilities, urging him to delay implementing the Construction Contractors Act so that the two-year period in which to “grandfather” existing contractors into the new regime could begin again.

The initial “grandfathering” period expired two years after the Act was passed in 2016, and the BCA chief explained that unless Bahamian contractors have the necessary tertiary (college/university) qualifications and/or industry experience as stipulated by the legislation’s Schedule Ten they will now not qualify to become licensed and registered to practice.

Mr Sears, speaking during his contribution to the Budget debate in the House of Assembly yesterday, pledged that the Government is aware of the problem and plans to address it by reforming the Act. “There will be amendments to the Construction Contractors Act,” he promised.

“This Act was passed almost four years ago, and we had a transition period so persons in the industry could be grandfathered in. That provision said two years. That two years has passed long time. The only authority that can amend that law is the Parliament. We will be going back to amend that legislation for the industry as we build more resilience.”

Explaining the legal dilemma that presently exists, Mr Sands told Tribune Business that he and BCA executives met with Mr Sears and his team at the Ministry of Works last Monday before the holiday weekend to address the Act’s implementation and the appointment of the Board that will oversee the self-regulatory licensing and registration regime.

The Board’s appointment has long been viewed as the last item that must be accomplished before the Act takes effect, but Mr Sands said it was at this meeting that the BCA was first advised by representatives from the Attorney General’s Office about the problems with the “grandfathering period expiring from two-and-a-half years ago”.

“What that meant is it did not affect persons seeking to be registered under the Act’s schedule ten,” he added. “Those who qualify under schedule ten of the Act have no barrier whatsoever. They have to have a bachelor’s degree, tertiary level education and certain years of experience in the industry.

“However, the burden of the concerns that the former administration and this administration have, is that possibly hundreds of persons or thousands do not meet that education requirement, and if we did not correct the earlier deadline for transition to registration under the Act you can imagine the storm that will happen.

“It would mean that those who do not meet the education or experience requirements would be barred from becoming licensed contractors in their country, which is not a good situation to be in economically.” Mr Sands said Mr Sears had pledged that addressing this issue was on his agenda, and that he would give it “similar priority” in placing it on the matters that must be addressed by the Davis Cabinet.

The BCA chief said he was also writing to Mr Sears to request “one or two amendments in terms of the Board’s make-up”. The minister, meanwhile, added that he was eyeing further legislative changes to laws that come under the Ministry of Works’ remit.

Besides potential reforms to the Planning and Subdivisions Act to account for recent legal rulings, and address “the anomalies between the minister of works and minister of the environment”, Mr Sears said the Building Control Act may also be adjusted to provide “more resilience and better guidance to the building industry”.

He added: “We will amend the Building Code so that we will take into account some of the measures we see in Florida where you have to have a certain elevation in your building, you have critical functions on the second floor of the building, and a better integration of renewable energy into the design of the building.” 

Comments

DWW 2 years, 1 month ago

ahamas is too dunb to have nice things. maybe these people should not get a license . i see really shoddy work daily. if they cant meet requirements then work for another company until you do. this article screams of spoilt baby crying.

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