Mar 6 , 2021

The Addis Abeba City Administration has inaugurated a classroom expansion project initiated as a precautionary step against the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) across 150 schools in the capital. Despite this, some of the classrooms subject to expansion are not yet completed. The city launched the construction of 1,773 classrooms late last year with a one-month completion period.

Expected to have been ready for school reopening in November, the nearly one billion Birr project being fully funded by the City Administration is still underway four months later. The City Administration inaugurated the project two weeks ago with the presence of Deputy Mayor Adanach Abeibei; however, the project is still ongoing, according to sources close to the case.

The bid for the additional classrooms' construction was announced in mid-October, and the project was entirely contracted out to Edab Manufacturing & Construction Plc. But the project has since been divided between 85 other small and medium-scale construction associations, which took over 700 classroom projects.

The contractor who had initially received the contract for all the classrooms was unable to deliver on time, according to Selamawit G. Hanna, deputy head of the Construction Bureau, which is directly overseeing the project. The city has 535 public and 1,445 private schools that cater to nearly one million students.

However, as the delivery date approached, the Bureau involved 85 small and medium-scale enterprises.

"The payment was taken from the original agreement with the contractor," she said. "We'd reached an amicable agreement."

Edab Manufacturing was unresponsive to multiple inquiries from Fortune.

The number of classrooms intended to be constructed under the project was 1,812, but issues like court orders have forced downsizing. Some of the expansions were done within the compounds of the schools, and others were outside.

"Obtaining permits for expansion outside of their own compounds was a pre-requisite for the schools, so we had to reduce the numbers," said Selamawit.

Projects that are fast-tracked come with additional costs associated with ensuring quality during a shorter time period, according to experts in the field.

Delay, all too common in the construction industry, can be caused by problems that emanate from the project planning to implementation phases, according to Handebo Ayele, construction & technology management head at Hawassa University Institute of Technology.

If the design is not accurate or well-planned initially, delays are inevitable, he explained.

"It can also be caused by time-taking approvals from consultants as the project is implemented," he said. "At times, a consultant could be working on five or six projects simultaneously and getting a green light [from the consultant] may take time."

Studies in the sector have shown that delays in payments also hamper the speed of construction, especially on public projects.

"An unstable market like this, with rising cement prices, means that the contractor would have to get the approval for payment to proceed with the project," he said. "In public offices, where there is no database of construction material prices, this means a lengthy process to verify these claims."

Research in the field has long recommended that government agencies include construction inputs in statistical surveys, he added.

Unrealistic contract durations are another of the most common reasons, the expert cited.

PUBLISHED ON Mar 06,2021 [ VOL 21 , NO 1088]

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