Aug 5 , 2023

Contractors in the Amhara Regional State are riled over the requirement criteria for the construction of schools in the region claiming exclusion from for bids to build 63 schools by the Ministry of Education.

The Ministry had requested all regional states to submit a list with 25 potential grade three and above contractors to build 50 models and 13 boarding schools. Following this, the Amahara Region Construction Contractors Association penned a letter to the Ministry on behalf of the lower-grade contractors discontent over the decision.

The revised regulation of Construction Certification has seven grades in accordance with the professionals and staff profile they have, the equipment they possess which is the cash capital and material worth and their experience in projects.

Grade-one construction companies are expected to register over 350 million Br of annual turnover, grade-two contractors 300 million Br and 140 million Br for Grade Three constructors.

The project is expected to cost over 100 million Br while the buildings are anticipated to be the ideal model structure for construction to come.

The boarding schools are going to be high schools for selected students across the country. The schools are expected to build relationships between students from different parts and produce highly intelligent students in the country.

In the boarding schools, the classrooms are expected to be equipped with various technologies that are expected to facilitate smart education.

The selection criteria are specified to grade one to three contractors so the association complained about the inclusiveness of the lower-grade association members. Muluken Bitew, the association president and Level-2 contractor himself, said these specifications are not fair for the other low-grade association members.

"The inflation and the northern conflict pushed the lower-level contractors out of work," he told Fortune.

Dividing the work into different contractors will be fair for participating every contractor, he suggested. The association has a total of 560 members out of them 50-100 are from the higher level which is 1-3. The association wrote a letter of complaint to the Ministry of Education carbon copying the Amahra City Administration Office and the Amhara Urban and Infrastructure Bureau to reconsider the specifications.

According to the letter the association wrote on July 4 and signed by the association president selected 45 contractors from levels 1-5 for the rehabilitation of 45 conflict-affected schools by conflict as per the plan of the Ministry to rehabilitate 50 schools in Amhara and Afar regional states and the association is asking the ministry to consider the same grade contractors for the coming school project too.

The letter also asks the ministry to rethink the criteria and let the schools be built jointly rather than giving it all to only one contractor.

Gashaw Abuhay, Owner and Manager of Infracon Construction, is a level-five contractor working in the field for a decade now. His main area of work is buildings and water projects.

"I have done only one project in the past three years," he told Fortune.

Gashaw is the sole provider of his family and his three kids and usually works on 2-3 projects per year at least each worth 10-15 million Br. But these three years the Covid-19 outbreak, the northern conflict and the inflation of construction materials affected the construction sector leading constructors out of jobs.

Deputy head of Amhara National Regional State Urban and Infrastructure Bureau Assefa Sisay said they have done the job in accordance with the specific criteria set by the owner of the project, the Ministry of Education. And failed to comment any further because it is the ministry's authority after all.

Getachew Tefera, Minister's office head in the Ministry of Education said the construction of the schools is still in the planning stage where the building design is still in process and the required budget has not been allocated yet.

Out of the fifty boarding schools, the ministry is planning to start the construction of thirteen of them next year.

"We aim for the quality," he told Fortune.

The criteria of the contractors are selected in order to have a high-quality output so the selection was based on their experience in this kind of project and capital they mobilised so far. Getachew also stated the answer to the complaint is still in process because the plan is still on the air.

But sources in the ministry don't believe the work will be given to the lower-grade contractors because the ministry will not compromise the quality of the schools. The Ministry is looking forward to experienced contractors who can deliver the schools on time in spite of the fluctuation and unpredictability of construction material costs.

But Experts suggest giving the work to the highest level contractor and that contractors hire others as a subcontractor and be responsible for controlling them.

The expert Abebe Dinku (Prof) is a department head of Construction Technology & Maintenance at Addis Abeba University (AAU). He believes such kinds of projects should be given to the most experienced contractor with the highest working capital.

"That's not possible," he told Fortune.

Joining the contractors is not a good move, according to Abebe; he suggests if they are willing to join hands they should join as one contractor and be the highest and be competitive that way.

PUBLISHED ON Aug 05,2023 [ VOL 24 , NO 1214]

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