Recently there has been a new round of discussions about public works, focusing on the cause of specific issues, such as delays, direct or indirect reinvoicing, defective and even unsafe construction. However, it seems that these discussions do not address the primary reasons for this dismal situation, but instead address issues of minor importance. It seems as if these discussions are directed towards finding an alibi and providing justification for the incompetence of those who undertake to carry out public works on the state’s behalf. This ineffectiveness is observed in all stages, from the allocation of funds to the completion and delivery of the public works.
Ineffectiveness and lack of transparency as far as public works are concerned have reached new heights. It seems that our country holds the record in this area, while the reasons for this predicament are many and hard to define. In the paragraphs below, we will attempt to examine in hierarchical order not only the actions, but also the omissions of those who manage all stages of public works (legislation, invitations to tender, completion and delivery), as well as their accountability for the negative results that are observed and recorded by the general public of the areas where they occur. There are four (4) categories of people who should be held accountable for this deplorable situation, as described below.
First, central government politicians. Since they have the jurisdiction to legislate, they can define firm and rigid regulations regarding the development of public construction projects, from planning to completion. It is necessary that a rigid framework also allows for healthy competition between the civil engineering companies that will study and carry out each construction project. Healthy competition should be based on a detailed statutory system,
which regulates the technical description of each project as well as the requirements and conditions of the tender.It often happens that during the course of a particular project, situations arise that can only be solved in court. A clearly and precisely identified framework with tight deadlines for these court cases and with strict legal consequences for those who do not abide with this framework is also necessay. The identification as highly punishable “specific criminal offences” of transgressions and collaboration between guilds that have formed cliques during the course of a public construction project would have a dissuasive effect on this type of wrongdoing, which has become quite common.
Second, the municipal politicians and officials appointed by the local politicians. Since this group is politically responsible for the planning and completion of technical projects in their area, they should also be responsible for the detailed technical and financial study of each project as well as for the clearly defined conditions of the tender. There are many advisors in the municipal governments who can provide reliable information regarding the specific requirements and characteristics of each category of technical projects.
Third, the technical staff who examine and supervise the public construction projects. This group is supposed to support the work of the municipal politicians and officials of the previous paragraph and make sure that the regulations for the technical description of each project as well as the requirements and conditions of the tender are respected and closely followed. This is the group that comes into direct regular contact with the people who carry out constructions projects, watch every step of the works at the constructions sites, verify the quality of materials, check
the work done behind the scenes and ultimately decide whether the project meets the safety standards.
Last, the contractors. They are a likeable group, which has acquired a bad reputation because of many unsafe and substandard technical public projects that they have undertaken. Construction deficiencies are usually reported by citizens of the area and also sometimes exposed by adverse climatic events. The quest for profit is not in itself reproachable, as long as it is compatible with the quest for safety. Before accepting a public project, contractors should make sure that they are actually able to deliver the services as promised and at the agreedupon price, without compromising the materials or the construction standards and within the agreed upon time-limits. If the contractors are simply after the highest profit, then they will make dubious political and financial deals, as well as compromises in many areas. They are the ones who will take all the blame for the inefficiencies, because it is the contractors that the public sees at the building sites…
Any time that the above-mentioned four groups of people do not abide by the rules, they are guilty of conflict of interest in the best scenario and guilty of fraud, misappropriation of funds and corruption in the worst scenario. No matter how big the efforts to cover a misdeed are, Econometrics has shown time and again that there is a very heavy price to pay for defective construction of public works: it is a huge monetary loss for the country, which negatively affects the national growth expectations and the living standard of the citizens. This is of particular importance in areas like Mani, which receives very limited subsidies for public work contract