Ministry of Works and Human Settlement (MoWHS) will soon facilitate contract specialisation to address the slacking quality of construction and give due recognition to contract firms with specialisation.

Specialisation happens when some construction companies specialise in doing one part of the task and relies on other specialised firms to do other parts.

For instance, in hydropower construction, different components of the works are contracted to different firms. Some firms specialise in tunneling works and others in electro mechanical works.

MoWHS secretary Phuntsho Wangdi said, even in bridge construction, specialists are required. The process of dewatering, building cofferdam, laying foundation, bar bending are all works that require specialists.

Under the new scheme, he said, the prime contractor will have to look for specialised units before bidding. The contractor will have to make arrangements with specialised units, negotiate the price and then put a premium over it to derive the bid amount.

“After getting the work, the prime contractor will just have to coordinate the specialised groups,” the secretary said, adding that this is the practice in the west.

The current situation, he said, is such that contractor bid low and after having awarded the works, they look for specialists or experts. Then they negotiate the price. “If the price proves hefty for the contractors, they land up cutting the corners and compromising quality.”

He added that in most cases works are being delayed because contractors fail to get the expertise.

Specialisation of contract is expected to deliver quality works and equitable distribution of resources.

The Construction Development Corporation has already started to undertake bridge construction and tunneling works.

The MoWHS will list the specialists after examining their competency. Some areas of specialisation are roads, building, tunnel, bridge, airport, dam, plumbing, electrification, concreting, fabrication, water treatment, wood joinery and carpentry, among others.

“The list can go on,” Phuntsho Wangdi said.

While there are incentives for contractors with specialisation, the question arises about the capacity of private contractors. Construction industry is driven primarily by government investment and there are already too many players for a small share of the pie.

From 2011 to May 2017, government awarded 7,039 contracts, of which 613 (nine percent) was given to large contractors, 1,374 (19 percent) to medium category and 5,052 (72 percent) to small contractors.

There are 201 large contractors, constituting 5 percent of the total contractors. Medium contractor constitute 10 percent (437) and small contractor form 85 percent (3,559) of the total contractors.

The secretary said that with recognition, the industry need sufficient specialised training opportunities.

He said that talks are already on with labour ministry to build the capacity of vocational training institutes. “Upgrading some VTIs into colleges would help in specialisation,” he said.

Tshering Dorji