Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The underworld of Construction: Part 2

You know the BoQ (Bill of Quantities) is quite interesting. It contains costs which are not so big individually but when you add the figures up, the totals are massive. When the architect brought the BoQ, it was quite tricky to understand it, being the layman I was. I am surprised these days I can make a lot of sense from it. You see when it talks of substructure, superstructure, form-works  cubic meters for mass concrete, twisted bars etc.; it can dwarf your knowledge. I demanded that the guy supplies me with a schedule of materials which is much easier to understand. You see 5 lorries of sand, or Y8s, Y12s and the likes makes more sense to a layman.

Before it escapes me I recall that incidence when we were to cast the slab and my good neighbor who had promised to give me water; a circus it became. On the materials day, the koroga squad arrived by 6 AM and quickly set up the machinery, then they proceeded to carry cement from the site house and they emptied as many as 20 bags on the ground…by the way, the operations of this koroga squad is rather organized and interesting. The toughest guys will be somewhere they call “Chini ya mnazi”; just next to the concrete mixer and their role is to load mass concrete atop wheelbarrows. The lightweights will be assigned simple tasks like pouring water, cement, sand and ballast inside the mixer. Interesting these fellows know how to balance the ratios inside the mixer…don’t ask me how they co-ordinate, please observe. Back to my neighbour’s story: When some fellows went inside my neighbor’s compound to get water, the lady of the house came out with a machete claiming that the water was given without her authority. The man being a man wanted to show his authority and attempted to force the lady into submission but when the machete was wrestled from her, she started wailing and close the gate. She held onto the keys like her life depended on them. I had to utilize my negotiation skills but they never worked till I parted with some 2k to appease the lady and finally she gave in.

Life gets quite interesting. You know the same lady was once thrown out of the house by the husband and the dude disappeared to Western and switched off his phone. I found her outside the gate and she pleaded with me for some coins to take her to her Meru. Of course I remembered the water incident but decided to let it pass and I gave her cash enough to eat some meal and ferry her stuff to her shags.

Back to the construction of my house: You see I noted that I had lost it and fired all the workforce and I had to figure out how to move on. But I had to understand how these fellows were stealing from me. And so I confided in one fellow and he opened up. The fellow eventually became my mole. The chief architect of the thefts was none other than my own brother (who was to be my eye on the ground). He was a wolf in sheep’s skin. You see he knew what all the others were doing and he’d get a cut from each. He was the guy who was meant to confirm and receive supplies in my absence. Some of the deliveries were less and I’d pay for the expected full deliveries. It is very easy to receive 9 cements and pay for 10, after all the difference of one when already utilized is barely noticeable. The hardware guy would bill me for quantities which were not fully delivered. I’d only check on the delivery notes and assume that what was there was accurate. The foreman was also cheeky; he had two sites and would utilize some of the KYMs on the other site whereas I was the one paying them. Just before I arrived in the evening, I’d find them on my site and assume they worked the whole day. Poor me.

I knew the only way out was to install controls at all these levels. I also had to have a grip of the procurement process because therein was the biggest loss. The controls worked wonders and I’ll outline them in the next post. However, this never prevented me from being conned by the timber guy in Rongai. This was my last loss but I learnt a lot from it. More in the next post.

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