By Bahle Gama
Some of the major players in the country’s construction industry have expressed concern over a move by the Construction Industry Council (CIC) to reverse a temporary suspension of the Eswatini Contractors Association (ECA).
The CIC is the regulator for the construction industry in Eswatini, whilst the ECA is the supporting body for all contractors in Eswatini, geared towards increasing capacity and sharing information to formalise and positively change the reputation of the construction sector.
In 2021 a decision was taken by the CIC to temporarily suspend the ECA pending investigations over financial statements that were never submitted to the regulator since 2019.
The CIC recently released a statement purporting to rescind the temporary suspension of the ECA. The Normalising Committee, whose mandate is to bring normalcy and confidence within ECA and other stakeholders in the construction industry, has expressed concern with the CIC’s decision to withdraw the ECA’s temporary suspension.
A member of the committee Phesheya Hlatshwako said the decision to release a statement to rescind the first notice whereby ECA was being suspended because the executive was not complying with general policies did not sit well with them.
This reaction from the committee has been birthed by another public notice by CIC on March 17, notifying contractors of the renewal of CIC registration for the 2023/24 financial year which will commence on April 3.
The renewal will also require contractors to be fully registered members of the ECA which is being contended by the normalisation committee.
In February CIC released a statement titled “lifting of the temporal suspension of Eswatini Contractors Association”.
“The ECA, CIC stakeholders and the general public are hereby notified that the earlier decision made by the Council to temporarily suspend ECA has now been rescinded with immediate effect. Contractors are advised to ensure that their membership status with ECA is up to date before they renew or register with CIC. The council will continue to actively engage with ECA to ensure that all issues of concern are addressed,” reads the public notice.
Hlatshwako stated that they were unhappy with the way CIC behaved when releasing the statement, “knowing very well they had issued an order stating that ECA was not complying with general policies. Whereby the executive that was in office since 2019 had not presented financials for a duration of three years before CIC, which made the regulator compel ECA to submit the documents.”
He stated that ECA deals with contractors’ money so there should be a body that oversees whether everything is done appropriately in terms of registration and subscription fees, and further ensures that everything is up to date and there is accountability.
“The reason we are unhappy is that, to this date, CIC has not given us feedback to notify us whether those in office before the suspension had complied with the regulator in terms of submitting financials. We all remember that CIC said contractors should come directly to the regulator for registration instead of ECA and did not issue any directive that we should maintain our membership with ECA,” he said.
However, with the rescinding statement and being told that membership should be up to date with ECA, Hlatshwako deems such as very confusing because when contractors returned to the ECA for registrations, “all those that took the directive from CIC took it that we were being told not to go to ECA for anything because there was suspicious activity.”
As a result, due to Section 5.3.2 of the Constitution of the ECA, they were told their membership was non-existent and contractors need to re-register and subscribe.
“We also feel that it is unfair because there have been members who were subscribing to ECA at the backs of the majority contractors who opted to comply with CIC who will not have to take the same route of re-registering,” he said.
This he said also puts those members with a better chance for re-election.
“We are saying CIC should do more. In fact, we were hoping that as a regulator seeing the current state the industry is in and how contractors are faced with a conundrum, then a statement or directive would be issued by CIC that clarifies the reasons for rescinding,” said Hlatshwako.
In this case, he said he hoped it to be in the form of the financials that the executive had never submitted to the regulator since arriving in the office.
He further stated that as the regulator, CIC is tasked with overseeing that affiliates are complying with the country’s statutory, adding that even if that is not the case, there are policies and a constitution that regulates associations in the country in terms of accountability.