By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
The Minister of Works yesterday warned that he will "not issue construction contracts like candy at a child's party", emphasising that contractors must deliver 'value for money' to taxpayers.
Desmond Bannister, addressing a Bahamian Contractors Association (BCA) luncheon, said Government construction contracts would only be issued to contractors who were "registered and qualified" to do the work required.
Implying that the days of 'political patronage' were over, he said such practices would be "curtailed" as the Minnis administration "strictly adheres" to government tendering processes.
Suggesting that this would "level the playing field" for competent contractors, Mr Bannister said: "Those contractors who invest in their business, and who present innovative solutions, will have every opportunity to prosper.
"I have no interest in issuing contracts like candy at a child's party. You are either registered and qualified to participate in the process or you are not. As partners working together, we shall elevate the public's perception of construction contractors. Except where there is some compelling reason, major projects will be publicly tendered.
"Unqualified and unregistered individuals will not be considered. All bids will be considered and properly evaluated, and the winning bidder will be the one that provides the best value for the people's money. We are fully committed to transparency and accountability. This Minister will not interfere with due process. Nor will we tolerate shoddy work."
Mr Bannister added that the Construction Contractors Act would bring an end to the "chaos" that has plagued the industry as a result of unscrupulous operators, cost overruns and poor workmanship.
Mr Bannister added that except for civil lawsuits, there was little recourse for those with complaints against contractors.
"Chaos has been the customer experience for those who have been subjected to unscrupulous contractors, cost overruns, and poor workmanship. Except for civil lawsuits, there was little recourse for those with complaints against contractors. Many are the stories of the vulnerable, particularly single women, who have lost money and materials - paying deposits and seeing no work done by contractors who disappear," said Mr Bannister.
He said the Act's provisions were meant to be a deterrent to unscrupulous conduct, describing it as "revolutionary" and "long overdue".
Mr Bannister added that the Act provides for registration and licensing through the Construction Contractors Board, which will be responsible for advising the Minister responsible for Works on matters relating to the construction industry.
There will also be a register of licensed contractors, Mr Bannister said, adding that contractors must have all-risk insurance and public liability insurance in the amount of $1 million to supply services to the general public
"Contractors will have to meet certain criteria before they are licensed to specific categories. Further, each contractor will have to demonstrate that he has successfully completed a project within the category of the license for which he is applying. These provisions will protect your customers and you," the Minister said.
He added that the Act also contains a Consumer Code for contractors, which sets mandatory requirements that all builders must meet in their marketing and building of homes.
"The code seeks to ensure that clients are treated fairly; that they know what service levels to expect; that they are given reliable information upon which to make their decisions; and that they know how to apply to the builders' defects compensation scheme. This scheme is set up to deal with cases of defective workmanship in relation to newly-constructed residential homes," said Mr Bannister.