The construction industry is at the heart of infrastructure development. For society like ours, it is considered the backbone of economic growth.
But the sector, which has perhaps the biggest potential to play a significant role in nation building, is also identified as the one of the sectors most prone to corruption. The findings of a recent survey by the Anti Corruption Commission indicate the earlier observations on how pervasive corrupt practices are at every phase of construction projects.
It s recent survey found that 3.4 percent of the contractors have paid cash or kind or service for construction projects. On social ties and its impact, 22.4 percent of the contractors said that personal relationship with the head of the agency mattered , while 16.7 percent where of the view that political affiliation mattered . Given the amount of money and people and the bureaucracy involved in the sector, it has been found that corrupt practices have proliferated in the country in the form of misrepresentation, poor quality of infrastructure , and low levels of productivity.
The quality of roads, the main mode of transportation in the country and one on which socioeconomic development depends, is an important indicator of the construction sector’s competence. As of April this year, the country ha d a network of 12,204kms of road. However, according to the roads department, only five percent of the roads are perfectly smooth with no undulations ; 11 percent had many large potholes, large cracks, was wavy and had undulations. It is reported that 28 percent of the roads are in good condition with small cracks and thin ravelling and 44 percent had significant cracks.
While these roads may still be pliable and their conditions not necessarily suggest corruption given the geography, its state still calls for action from the authorities. We have been building roads since the country started its development journey in the 60s. Our roads tell the narrative of how far the country has come since and how far we are likely to go. Unless the chopper service is considered, the existing state of our roads, which are used by the people, does not reflect a country that has done well economically.
It only takes some rain to reveal the poor drainage and road condition in the capital just as it takes a high level official’s visit to patch up potholes. The economic growth we boast of doesn’t appear to translate in the quality of infrastructure or employment. We talk of sustainable development while building an economy on borrowings.
Since government investment drives the construction industry, there is an urgent need to assess the level of corruption and complacency in the sector. If we have, then we have not done a good job in correcting the problems. Infrastructure such as roads is a national asset and given the amount of investment that is pumped in, the sector and its problems need more attention.
There is also a need to address the concerns raised by the contractors. They are not wrong to ask of everyone, including the engineers , to be held accountable when the quality of work is questioned. It is time we started deconstruct ing the construction industry.