Construction Industry Development Act in a Nutshell
Posted on October 4th, 2014

By Dr. Chandana Jayalath

An Act to provide for regulating the domestic construction industry is now in pipeline. Development has been purported mainly in terms of registrations, standards and fund collection with a considerable powers including acquisition of property if necessary. It provides for the establishment of two serious entities namely a national advisory council for construction and the construction industry development authority (CIDA) enjoying not only a perpetual succession and a common seal but also a heavy influence on the construction supply chain.

 Working out a strategy for the ‘well-being’ of the construction industry is amongst the job specification of the foregoing council. This council is to guide the CIDA in achieving the desired objectives by formulating a national policy on construction. It is said, such a policy shall comprise matters relating to the construction industry and its goals. Unlike matters most of the times, goals are not yet known and not yet declared either quantitatively or qualitatively. Goals will be declared and in fact to be declared along with the national policy, I believe.

 On completion of the national policy, this council is required to put forward it to the Cabinet of Ministers for approval. I consider it a project that should not be dragged unnecessarily. It must have a define start and end date with interconnected activities such as research, industrial feedback, legal scrutiny and so forth. However, the subject Minister may, from time to time, for the purpose of implementing the national policy give directions as he may consider necessary. This is in addition to the powers retained with the Minister to appoint four individual members apart from those designated in the Act. Council is a group of nearly 32 persons representing the industry yet, the independence of this council is dubious.

 Also said is such a policy may, from time to time, be revised in keeping with the developments of the construction industry. Keeping a room for policy changes definitely mean a lot. A policy is a principle, quite firm in long run, to guide decisions and achieve rational outcomes with a solid statement of intent. I believe, the council will have to assess as many areas of potential policy impacts as possible in order to lessen the chances that a given policy will have unexpected or unintended consequences. Because of the nature of some complex adaptive systems in the supply chain, it may not be possible to assess all possible impacts of a given policy. Also, some of the problems that best the projects are not foreseeable or, even if they are foreseeable, their magnitude may not be foreseeable. However, the emphasis on traditional knowledge in these initiatives is a valid humane approach.

 Traditional knowledge is a cumulative body of knowledge, know-how, practices and representations maintained by people with extended histories of interaction with the natural environment. These sophisticated sets of understandings, interpretations and meanings are part and parcel of a cultural complexity that basically encompasses how people would prefer to live by. Traditional knowledge includes types of knowledge about traditional technologies of subsistence (e.g. tools and techniques) with knowledge on ecological movements, astronomy, heritage etc. I must say, this aspect has been disgustingly ignored in the present day context of construction.

 There are several trends impacting the industry that pose a challenge the traditional practices to evolve in the upcoming years. Buildings account for around 40% of final energy. Typically, almost 90% of the energy used in a building during its life span is for operation, maintenance, and renovation, while only a little more than 10% is accounted for by the manufacturing and transportation of its materials, as well as for its construction. Life cycle costing is fairly a rapid approach though it has been badly neglected in Sri Lanka. Building economists have a pivotal role in this effort. Hence the way towards a sustainable construction industry is an important opportunity for CIDA if it wants to actually exploit in good faith of the nation.

 On the other hand, some natural building materials and water are becoming increasingly scarce, forcing all sectors of the construction industry to responsibly manage. These trends represent a challenge, as the government struggles with the basic infrastructure through different means. As a result, sustainable construction practices must thrive in a resource-constrained world. I hope CIDA may work in these thoughts.

 The functions of the proposed CIDA are to implement the policy in keeping with the directions issued by the Minister in that regard, anyway. This is what ICTAD has been geared to since its inception. Its function of collating and publishing materials and information is well known. No one can say it did not promote best practices. It has successfully implemented the standards in consultation with the other relevant bodies. It has also been supporting and interpreting national procurement guidelines. It has provided for and regulated the presentation of national awards for construction excellence. Its contribution in promoting the standards of professionalism is also priceless. It provided for grading of construction contractors. What it did not do (comparing the provisions in the Act) was registration and issuing of craft identity cards to skilled workers in construction trades. Further it could not maintain a national data base on construction industry and establish standards for technical auditing, for example. If so, the question arises as to why CIDA came into effect while ICTAD is there?

 A sizeable fund collection via a comprehensive registration process inter-alia is expected from two main sources namely, construction industry development fund and fund of the construction industry development authority. Almost every stakeholder of the industry including professionals, manufacturers, suppliers, contractors and craftsmen has been earmarked as the target population. The Institute for Construction Training and Development (ICTAD) tilting for the last 10 years due to poor management offers nucleus for the above proposal so that it will no longer exist with the effect of this enactment. Therefore, let us hope the proposed National Council will take a total stock and prepare a balance sheet of the ICTAD in terms of intangible assets such as expertise and liabilities such as lethargy, lack of want and professional mafia if CIDA is seeking a genuine change away from the ICTAD.

2 Responses to “Construction Industry Development Act in a Nutshell”

  1. aloy Says:

    ICTAD id doing a good job. Why not let it continue with more powers to test artisans (welders, electricians and so on) ?. Why duplicate institutions and make some people redundant and pay others?. There is a shortage of manpower in our country and Indians are creeping it. To stop that please enforce the rule that only qualified professionals (like those with qualification such as membership of IESL, SSESL etc) are allowed to practice in the field of engineering, architecture etc., like in other countries.

    We are at a cross road now. It is very clear from the other topics being discussed in this website today that there is a problem of enforcing the rule of law. This need to be changed first, if not no amount of legislation or bringing in new rules will work for the betterment of our country. In any other civilized country many of those in-charge of ministries will be in jail.

  2. Nanda Says:

    “In any other civilized country many of those in-charge of ministries will be in jail.” -yes. silvas to pms and Sajins to ksnushkas.

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