An investigation into the selection process of consultants and contractors in the public construction sector in Zambia

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Mukumbwa, Brian Brown Makumba
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Procurement of consultants and contractors in the public construction sector is regulated in most countries. In Zambia, all public procurement is regulated by the Zambia National Tender Board Act No. 30 of 1982. Various procurement methods are used for the selection of consultants and contractors in the public sector. In Zambia, the Quality and Cost Based Selection method (QCBS), Quality Based Selection method (QBS), Fixed Budget Selection method (FBS), and Least Cost Selection method (LCS) are the traditional methods used in the selection of consultants. The National Competitive Bidding (NCB) and the International Competitive Bidding (ICB) are the two methods used for formal tendering for selection of contractors. Informal tenders are used for the selection of both consultants and contractors for tenders below some prescribed threshold. The European Union (EU) and the Government of Japan also use the competitive traditional method of procurement. However, in Japan, cost was established to be the main factor considered in the selection of consultants and contractors.Good procedures for selection of contractors and consultants are critical to the successful implementation of construction projects. The Auditor General's reports, for the period 2000 to 2004, highlighted some anomalies in the procurement of construction projects. The reports also indicated poor workmanship, uncompleted and abandoned works as a result of non compliance to procedures. This study of the selection process of consultants and contractors sought to investigate and address problems in the procurement of consultancy and construction services in the public construction sector in Zambia. The aim of the study was therefore to develop best practice models for the selection of consultants and contractors. The research was undertaken through literature review, data collection using research instruments, analysis of results and case studies and report preparation. Through the analysis of results and case studies, a best practice model was developed and validated. Conclusions and recommendations were then drawn from the analysis of results, case studies and the validation process for the best practice model.Three research instruments, a questionnaire, case studies and in-depth direct interviews were used. It was established that the traditional method of procurement was still the most popular method of procurement for the selection of consultants and contractors in the public sector in Zambia. The following elements, in ranked order, were considered important in the selection of consultants: understanding the assignment; level of education of professional staff, experience in relevant works; experience in relevant tasks,methodology; and the work plan. In the appointment of consultants, pre-contract negotiation was favoured. On the other hand, the following, in ranked order, were determined as important factors in the selection of contractors: qualified technical personnel; financial capacity; experience in relevant works; and availability of construction equipment. Post contract assessment of consultants and contractors was also favoured upon completion of all projects.It was established that both project partnering and Public Private Partnerships (PPPs)were not commonly used procurement methods for construction projects in Zambia.However, they recognized for improving productivity in construction projects. To fully achieve the benefits of project partnering in Zambia, it was recommended that a clearly defined policy and legal frameworks for partnering be put in place. The major hindrance to the effective use of PPPs as a procurement method for construction projects in Zambia was the lack of political will to enact the legal framework for its implementation. Eprocurement was also not a commonly used method of procurement in Zambia, however,it was acknowledged that it could quicken the procurement process and improve on efficiency.An e-procurement model (Figure 6.1) was developed and validated as a best practice model in line with the aim of this study. It was established that this e-procurement model could bring about efficiencies in the selection of consultants and contractors in the public construction sector in Zambia and was also user friendly. The major limitation to this study was the failure by the researcher to access records for projects undertaken by other institutions other than National Assembly of Zambia and the Zambia Revenue Authority for use in the case study.
Contractors Selection--Process , Construction contracts