Sub-contracting: An underlining challenge in the construction sector

Quality: Even as the contractors have passed the recent quality test on the east-west highway, sub-contracting remains the biggest concern that may compromise the quality of work, according to officials from the Ministry of Works and Human Settlement (MoWHS).

Bigger contractors awarding work to small-time contractors is not a new thing and it happens across the country.

However, with no clear evidence, authorities concerned are not able to step in, said an MoWHS official.

Officials said that it all depends on how the contract is drawn. If the contract document allows sub-contracting, it is legal. In Bhutan, except for hydropower projects, sub-contracting is not allowed because it leads to poor quality of work.

An official said that the ministry has found a number of sub-contract cases on the east-west highway road-widening project and other road construction projects across the country. However, it is difficult to prove and therefore remains largely ignored.

“When sub-contracting takes place, lots of compromises occur,” said an MoWHS official, adding that most contractors quote at least 20-30 percent below the contract rate and when they handover the work to a second contractor, there are going to be compromises, leading to poor quality of work.

According to an MoWHS official, a sub-contractor was appointed in Trongsa recently. “Since all documents proved that the sub-contractor was the manager, we could not take any action,” he said. “Despite knowing the fact, we were defeated because of lack of hard evidence.”

Officials said that the ministry is going to come up with solutions. As part of solution the ministry started awarding work at the contract rate to improve quality a few years back. The measure helped avoid compromising the quality, but the tendering process has come under public criticism.

“People even say that we have vested interest and involvement in corruption,” said an official from the ministry.

An official said that unless a better solution is adopted to detect the sub-contracting of projects, the quality of work will continue to suffer.

Dawa Gyelmo | Wangdue

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