There has been a continuous collapse of buildings in Uganda especially in the Kampala district where several people have lost their lives and many have survived with permanent injuries. Many questions have been asked as to what causes the building to collapse and the major question that normally strikes out is “who is responsible and who is to blame?” There have been different answers to this where some people blame different stakeholders. Some people blame the owners of buildings saying that they use building materials of poor quality while many blame Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) since it has a mandate of planning for the city. What many people do not understand is that there are various bodies responsible for the planning and making sure that the buildings conform to the required legal guidelines. There are different laws and regulations to ensure that the building and building environments are safe and healthy and that there are minimal chances of collapsing.
The bodies responsible for ensuring that there is proper planning during construction include the Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) if the construction is in Kampala which is given that mandate under the KCCA Act 2010 as Amended by Act of 2019, the National Planning Authority under the National Planning Authority Act 2002 and the National Building Review Board established under the Buildings Control Act 2013 whose mandate is to inspect, license and review buildings under construction and the Department of Occupational Safety and Health under the Ministry of Gender, Labor and Social Development whose mandate is to ensure that the construction site is safe and healthy. It derives its mandate from the Occupational Safety and Health Act 2006. In order to have planned and safe construction sites, the above bodies should cooperate and work for hand in hand to ensure there is safety in construction.
Apart from the above statutory bodies, there are laws and regulations that govern the planning and construction of buildings in Uganda. These among others include:
• The Buildings Control Act 2013 which is the law to consolidate, harmonize and amend the law relating to the erection of a building; to provide for building standards; to establish a National Review Board and Building Committees; to promote and ensure planned, decent, and safe building structures that are developed in harmony with the environment. It provides for among others licensing of buildings, inspection revoking permits, and planning.
• The Physical Planning Act 2010 which is an Act to provide for the establishment of a National Physical Planning Board; to provide for the composition, functions, and procedure of the Board; to establish district and urban physical planning committees; to provide for the making and approval of physical development plans and for the applications for development permission; and for related matters.
• The KCCA Act 2010 as Amended by Act of 2019 which is an Act….. to provide for the devolution by the Authority of functions and services; to provide for a Metropolitan Physical Planning Authority for Kampala and the adjacent districts; to provide for the power of the Minister to veto decisions of the Authority in certain circumstances and for related matters.
• The Occupational Safety and Health Act 2006 is an Act to consolidate, harmonize and update the law relating to occupational safety and health. It provides guidelines for ensuring safe and healthy at work.
To ensure proper planning and safety of buildings in Uganda, the above laws and regulations must be observed to the dot so that there are no loopholes that may lead to accidents at workplaces or construction sites.
Borrowing a leaf from other jurisdictions, proper planning for buildings is something that is of paramount importance. In Ethiopia for example, the Ethiopian Building Proclamation No.624/2009 provides a mandatory requirement of a plan for construction building. The provisions include application for a plan (Article 4), planning consent (Article 5), and approval of a plan (Article 6); review of plans (Article 8), and rejection of a plan under Article 9. When the private or public construction plan is rejected by the building officers, the construction of the building cannot be undergone. The proclamation also provides for the need for the pre-contract preparatory works of construction contract which include soil tests, soil surveys, securing a building permit as well as consideration of various rights of different parties.
Conclusively, to provide solutions to the unanswered questions on the collapsing buildings, the general answer could be that there should be cooperation and harmony in bodies responsible for the regulation of construction in Uganda. These bodies should implement the existing laws and regulations to minimize accidents on construction sites. Also, the building owners should follow the laws and regulations in place. They should also conduct tests on the construction materials like soil, cement, stones, iron bars among others. This will not only create firm buildings but also spare the lives of people who perish when these buildings collapse.
The Writer Muganga Ambrose Ibabaza is a Labor Rights Lawyer and a Concerned Citizen.