The Malawi Allied Builders Contractors and Traders Association (Mabcata) says 2011 was a tough year that affected their operations occasioned by the shortages of foreign currency, fuel, cement and excessive delays of payments from contracting agencies.
Mabcata president Joe ChingÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ani said this in a statement made on Monday outlining the challenges and successes of the year just gone and prospects for 2012.
“Contractors continued to suffer or affected by excessive delays of payments from contracting or paying agencies. This impinged heavily on both the success of projects as well as performance of contractors,” explained ChingÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ani.
He stressed that delaying payment affects their operations because they cannot pay material suppliers and wages and salaries.
“Completion dates cannot be met and the citizen at the grass roots is denied timely delivery of a facility. Yet, there are more hidden effects which include rise in running and interest costs. It so appears that some procuring entities are still not complying or respecting the legislation [Public Procurement Act] which cautions that a procurement entity must not proceed into a procurement/ tender process until they are certain of availability of financial resources,” he said.
On the scarcity of cement, which is one of the major components of construction works, ChingÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ani said its shortage was a big minus to construction progress. He noted that erratic and, at times, unjustified pricing made matters worse.
The shortage of fuel paralysed the construction industry from all angles, according to ChingÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ani, meaning that sites could not be visited, materials would not be transported to sites, construction machines and equipment lay idle due to unavailability of fuel.
“Projects were delayed. Furthermore, quality and workmanship stood to be compromised as architects or/ and supervising engineers could not travel on scheduled trips to monitor progress,” he said.
The shortage of forex, ChingÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ani said, affected the importation of bitumen, cement, steel, sanitary fittings, construction of plant and other essentials which Malawian companies do not manufacture.
Even those contractors whose client organisations or paying agencies had made provision to pay a portion in foreign currency [especially donor funded projects], could not lay their hands on the US dollars when and if at all payment was due.
Going forward, ChingÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ani said Mabcata looks at the year  positively.
“With proper batching of works, we hope that both small and medium scale contractors will be able to compete and participate in tenders which will lead to them getting some awards,” he said.
He called contractors to strive to build own capacity by, among others, attending workshops and trainings.