Africa Construction Housing Tanzania

Tanzania’s main contractors pushing out specialised contractors

Main contractors are pushing out specialised subcontractors from the industry by performing tasks that would otherwise be handled by the latter.

In an exclusive interview with The Exchange, contractors from the Architects Association Tanzania (AAT) who attended the 10th AAT Continuous Professional Development (CPD) Seminar that was held in Dar es Salaam said, the specialised contractors are not getting any work because when the main contractor is hired they push do perform work that would be done by the specialised contractors.

If you are wondering what am talking about it because you probably already got swindled by a main contractor.

You see, the main contractor is the guy you give the ‘main’ job, lets say, to construct the house, the specialised contractor is the guy who comes to do the fine finishing after the construction is done. They handle the ceiling decorations, tiles and railings etc

Themed “Main contractors performing specialist subcontractors’ work,” the seminar was a platform to discuss the theme but it also allowed construction sector stakeholders like material suppliers to exhibit and present their products.

The seminar cited the various changes of the construction industry with emphasis on main contractors performing the tasks of specialist subcontractors, those who set tiles, glass works, plumbing, they build elevator shafts and install elevators, they install heating and cooling systems etc

“So the work that was to be performed by the specialist subcontractors is now being done by the main contractors,” said a specialised subcontractor who opted for anonymity.

It was reasoned that the infringement of duties is mainly under the pretext of saving costs. He said the root of the dilemma is the small budgets set for specialised tasks and small fees also for the specialist subcontractors during in the tendering process done by main contractors.

“We all want to save expenses as much as we can, however, this expense saving being done by main contractors can lead to detrimental effects in the construction industry and the very existence of specialist subcontractors and their staff,” he warned.

Further, he cautioned that should main contractors continue to perform the tasks that would otherwise be done by specialist subcontractors, it would lead to reduced innovation and expertise in the sector.

“This means a loss of standards in the subsector that have been established over the year,” expounded another participant. He said main contractors do not have the knowledge and skills neither to train nor develop talent in the subsector; “because they merely hire wage labour for the tasks they need.”

Since main contractors only hire wage labour that is semi-skilled, the task is substandard and may even endanger lives like the case of elevators. Likewise, they have no incentive to improve the skills of the wage labourers effectively undermining workforce development. And because they push out the specialised contractors, main contractors also cause loss of jobs and thus taxes for the government.

They also put themselves in a predicament because by taking all the tasks themselves, they bear the full range of risk since they have killed the risk-sharing element that would otherwise be shared with the specialist subcontractors.

More than creating employment, specialist subcontractors are the main advocates and the foundation for the development of skill, innovation and standards in the subsector. They are also capable and have the know-how to expand knowledge in the sector by offering hands-on knowledge-based training.

Also read: Qatar eyes Tanzania ICT and energy investments

As such, it is advised that Architects and Quantity Surveyors to involve the specialist subcontractors right from the very start of their projects. They are to seek and share their expert opinion to get actual market prices for materials and labour charges.

The meeting consensus was for main contractors to limit their practice to the main work that they are hired to perform and leave the specialised work to the specialist subcontractors.

A cheap contractor may cost you a wall

For the common Tanzanian, when we want to build a house, we simply ask our friends where we can find a good wage labourer. It is unusual for individuals to go out and hire a registered construction company to build their house.

The general assumption is that construction companies are too expensive and so we leave them for the construction of commercial buildings alone.

Constructing or remodelling a home is a complex and expensive endeavour. The bigger trouble is that most people go for cheap unregistered contractors instead of the expensive registered contractors.

Been cheap when it comes to constructing your house may prove to be a very expensive mistake as the years go by. What happens when, nine months after the construction is completed and you have moved into your new house only to have the wall develop a crack?

What I suggest here may prove to be very new to the Tanzania community but it is probably the best way forward.

Your house is your biggest life investment that is why you need to hire register contractors, ask for a work contract and even request that the contractor provide a warranty. While the contractor may shy away from warranties, it should be clear that warranties also protect the contractor as well.

Otherwise, the house owner may sue the contractor for poor work or for damage that happens when the construction is completed.

A warranty is a negotiable portion of the overall agreement (contract) between a homeowner and a registered contractor. The contractor will usually not offer a warranty and so you should be keen to request one yourself.

A warranty describes the problems and remedies for which the builder will be responsible after completion of the project, as well as the duration of the warranty and the mechanism for addressing disputes.

The purpose of a warranty is to protect both the homeowner and the builder. It protects the homeowner from shoddy work with no recourse and builders from being liable for projects for the rest of their lives.

A warranty may be included in a contract, or it may not be since it’s not required. Even when you get a warranty, there is no standard length of time, you and your contractor simply have to agree on the length of the warranty.

You should ask builders about home insurance products or even speak to legal advisers and lawyers about the rights you have over your contractor and what insurance you can get for your house. The legal adviser may also draft the warranty for you.

Original article on The Exchange

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