Analysis of some problems in the management and cost control of public sector construction projects in Nigeria
Development is a difficult, painful and long-term enterprise. Not only because of world wide social and economic changes with extensive debts problems, inflation, recession and slow growth, but it is also a matter of finding the technically and economically optimum solution. Over the long-term, the challenge for developing countries is to use their limited resources more efficiently and more equitably through the management of all investment outlays in both the public and private sector. Construction is a major investment sector in Nigeria, attracting an average of over 60% of all capital investment, with over 70% of that 60% sponsored by the public sector. Construction projects handled by the public sector in developing countries are however fraught with problems, from inception through to completion and beyond. This is well known to members of the public sector agencies. Year after year, in good times and bad, development projects suffer from a host of problems: some of design; others of appraisal; and still others of implementation. Most construction projects are characterised by overruns in cost and time, and are sometimes halted altogether before completion. It is therefore necessary to understand the problems underlying the system being practised, to establish a realistic pattern, and to be able to interpret and correct any abnormalities. A lack of understanding of the constraints leads to unrealistic planning, and to later problems that may become insoluble. This research was therefore aimed at identifying these problems, many of which arise from attempts to implement a technology, in this case management technology, in a country other than the country of its origin. In a comparative study between Nigeria and Scotland a large number of public agencies which sponsor construction projects, and the contracting and consulting organisations that work for these agencies, were surveyed using both face-to-face interviews and the postal questionnaire technique. It was found that the major problems in Nigeria are: bureaucratic obstacles affecting timely payment to contractors; ambiguity in consultant/client contract agreements; lack of sufficient qualified professionals in the agencies; and lack of suitable information on which to base initial estimates. Recommendations for improving practice in Nigeria include: administrative reform of construction agencies to reduce the trammels of bureaucracy; a better system of funding by central Government; establishment of a construction cost information agency; and payment of competitive salaries to public sector professional staff. These changes, taking into account the cultural environment of Nigeria, should enable decisions to be made with greater certainty of outcome by all parties involved.