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Rogue contractors taking advantage of Coronavirus distraction

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Rogue contractors taking advantage of Coronavirus distraction by Saocv(1): Thu 16, April, 2020 11:35pm
By Anne Mwale/KNA

The County Government of Nakuru has raised a red flag over mushrooming of illegal structures in the past month.

Land, Housing and Physical Planning Chief Officer JudyLeah Waihenya said some rogue private developers are taking advantage of ‘distraction’ caused by COVID-19 pandemic to erect structures without seeking approval from relevant authorities.

“Some developers have taken advantage of reduced or absence of enforcement officers on the ground and are now putting up structures in total disregard of the zoning policy, which gives guidelines on how many floors a structure should have, and the maximum number of buildings allowed in a certain zone,” she said.

Unapproved structures cause a strain on resources such as water and drainage systems, roads, lighting and security, she said.

“They also are a nightmare in offering vital services such as garbage collection. At Kivumbini Estate within Nakuru-East Sub-County we found one unapproved structure being constructed on public land,” she said.

She warned that her department would sustain audit inspection of buildings to ascertain their structural safety, their habitability and whether the economic activities of the buildings were what they were intended for.

Ms. Waihenya reiterated that even as the devolved unit redeploys financial resources and manpower to battle spread of the Coronavirus, it has revived inspection and safety audit of buildings in the region in collaboration with National Building Inspectorate (NBI) that kicked off last year.

“The County administration is determined to get rid of rogue developers and engineers who are taking advantage of Covid-19 crisis to build substandard and risky structures. The audit exercise is running concurrently with enforcement of laws on non-compliant building structures. Safety audit will also be conducted,” she said.

Ms Waihenya advised tenants to start demanding from their landlords occupation certificates to be sure that the buildings they are occupying meet the required standards.



She called on tenants to look out for problems such as cracks, doors that do not lock properly, windows that jam, which would be a sign of shifting in the structure, she said.

Other warning signs include broken pavements, meaning the columns are puncturing the ground, and crooked beams, which are structural failures showing that a building is not safe.

This comes at a time when the construction sector has also been hit by the use of substandard building materials as contractors seek to cut construction costs.

The Chief Officer said her department had also cracked the whip on developers changing material specifications, using the wrong proportions for concrete, and using substandard or inadequate materials, a situation she said seriously compromises the strength of a building.

"Urbanisation brings about substantial amount of new construction. However, in most cases there are limited building control measures due to limited capacity of institutions to ensure safety of buildings. We want to ensure there is quality workmanship and safety in the houses our people live in,” she added.

The National Building Inspectorate was established in 2015 by President Uhuru Kenyatta following the collapse of several buildings in the country.

Its mandate includes carrying out building inspection and audit of existing structures as well as taking necessary measures to safeguard public safety in the construction industry.

“After getting the necessary approvals, some developers disregard the professional opinion from engineers, architects, quantity surveyors and contractors. Others even go to the extent of building by themselves. There are instances where some developers had buildings with a foundation of three stories, but they increased them to as many as five as construction works proceeded,” said Ms Waihenya.

She warned that the department was on the lookout for such illegal structures and will not hesitate to bring them down.

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