Ethical lapses blamed in Kenya's Construction Sector

The collapse of a five-story building in Nairobi's low income Huruma suburb was a confirmation that Kenya's construction sector is not yet out of the woods.

 Ethical lapses blamed in Kenya's Construction Sector

The construction sector in Kenya that has lately experienced a boom is on the spotlight once again as failures to enforce regulations escalate collapse of residential apartments leading to loss of lives.

Kenya has in the recent past grappled with collapse of buildings in major cities despite launch of a code of conduct by regulatory agencies to weed out malpractices in the construction industry that contributes 7 percent to the country's GDP.

The collapse of a five-storey building in Nairobi's low income Huruma suburb at dawn on June 3 where three people died and several injured, was a confirmation that Kenya's construction sector is not yet out of the woods.

Mike Mbuvi Sonko, the Nairobi County Governor who oversaw rescue efforts at the collapsed building, said that his administration will conduct fresh inspection on residential flats in low income settlements to determine their safety.

"We are going to carry out a thorough inspection on all buildings in residential premises and proceed to demolish the ones that are structurally weak. The county government will enforce stringent measures in the construction sector to avert future disasters," Sonko remarked.

The densely populated Huruma estate located on the eastern section of Nairobi has become the epicenter of collapsed buildings that lead to loss of lives and displacement of families.

Seven people died in Huruma estate in April 2016 when a six-storey building collapsed due to failure by the contractor to follow sound architectural guidelines.

The collapse of another building in the same estate in late April 2016 where 50 people died, forced authorities to embark on a campaign to restore sanity in the construction industry.

Both the central and county governments have since 2016 carried out a campaign to enforce standards in the construction sector in the light of malpractices that lead to collapse of buildings.

The National Construction Authority in conjunction with Nairobi county government carried out an audit of all residential apartments in low income suburbs to determine their safety.

Several buildings that were found to be structurally weak were demolished in Huruma and other densely populated suburbs in the capital.

Charles Kerich, the Nairobi City County Lands and Housing Executive, told reporters at the site of the collapsed building in Huruma Estate that nine structures have been demolished in the crowded estate since 2016 due to safety concerns.

"We have earmarked several buildings for demolition in Huruma and the exercise will not stop until developers adhere to newly launched code of conduct in the construction sector," Kerich said.

He revealed that 600 buildings in Nairobi, majority of them in Huruma estate, were declared unsafe by the inspectorate department of the county government in December last year.

Kenya's construction sector is rated among the most vibrant in the region but ethical lapses have battered its image to the detriment of its future growth.

Experts said radical measures should be adopted by the regulatory agencies to restore order in a sector that has attracted huge investments while generating jobs for the youth.

Nathan Ngugi, a Nairobi-based real estate consultant, said adherence to construction guidelines, capacity building for artisans, public awareness and robust inspections are key to promote safety in residential buildings.

"Developers who flout rules to put up sub-standard buildings that pose risk to tenants should be given stiff penalties. A well-regulated construction sector will definitely attract more investments," Ngugi said.

President Uhuru Kenyatta has been on the frontline to promote ethical standards in the construction sector following collapse of residential apartment blocks that peaked in 2016.

Kenyatta in 2015 ordered state agencies to conduct an audit of buildings in Nairobi to determine their safety following an outcry from the public who bore the brunt of malpractices in construction industry.

Source: Xinhua

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