About 22 issues faced by the construction industry were presented to the government yesterday at the closing of the 16th annual Construction Association of Bhutan (CAB) general meeting.

Information and communications minister DN Dhungyel attended the closing where some 200 members from the construction industry from 18 dzongkhags attended the four-day meeting in Thimphu. Issues such as mobilisation advance, defect liability period, unavailability of local materials, number of works contractors can take up, and liberalisation of labour entry were discussed at the meeting.

The eighth engineers, architects and planners’ conference held in June this year had recommended reduction of mobilisation advance (advance given to the contractors before a project begins) from 10 percent to five percent and to increase defect liability period from one to three years. Defect liability period is the time after a construction project has been completed during which a contractor has the right to return to the site to remedy defects.

Vice president of CAB, Ugyen Penjor, said that although the government wanted to decrease the mobilisation advance to international standards, the construction industry in the country is still struggling. “Mobilisation advance has no risk to the government because we put counter-guarantee from our own money.”

General Secretary of CAB, Wangdi Gyeltshen, said, that if there is money at the start of a project, the contractors could operate without difficultly. “Our contractors are not as advanced as international level. They have no high productivity like those at international standards.”

Works and human settlement secretary Phuntsho Wangdi, said that the decrease in mobilisation advance is to create uniformity with international standards and to avoid misuse of advance fund by contractors. He added that after the procurement and bill submission of materials such as sand, timber, cement and stones, a 70 percent advance is given. “The 70 percent is given against the work done while the five percent is given before any work is done.”

Ugyen Penjor said that defect liability period  should be kept as it is or that if the defect liability period is increased to three years, the contractors or whoever is involved in the project should share 60-40 percent accountability. “Defect does not occur just because of quality of construction, it can also be because of design. Supervisors or whoever is concerned in the project should be equally concerned.”

Ugyen Penjor said that most of the time contractors face difficulties completing a project because of not having materials, especially local materials such as sand, boulders or timbers. “We found that Natural Resource Development Corporation Limited (NRDCL) is left unescorted. They are free. If they can, they supply. Even if they cannot, there is no risk for them. But contractor’s work is governed by time and money.”

The participants said this has become a problem especially for contractors in eastern Bhutan to obtain timber. The government, they proposed should either privatise local materials or ask NRDCL to make the materials available to all dzongkhags and construction points.

Lyonpo DN Dhungyel said that the issues raised would be put up to the Cabinet.

Meanwhile, the President of CAB, Thinlay Gyamtsho, said that construction productivity is not about delivering more projects but is the amount of output in relation to the amount of input used. “This is where creativity and innovation come into play. Our topic here today is mechanisation – how innovation in construction industry can play a big role in increasing construction industry’s productivity and translate them into profit.”

He said that this year, CAB hosted an annual general meeting, a seminar and the Bhutan construction fair simultaneously to provide business to business interaction platform.

Wangdi Gyeltshen, said, the seminar is a bridge between the fair and the annual general meeting. “It is a seminar where people can have open discussion between the buyers, exhibitors and the experts.”

To modernise the construction industry, CAB is also working towards making the events more professional by conducting research on why construction projects are failing and present the findings during the Annual General Meeting. “Contractors will not deliberately fail a project. There must be various reasons behind it,” he said.

Karma Cheki