How inconsistencies Undermine Professional Fees
Posted: 20/Aug/2018

Controversy is sprouting again among building sector professionals on the scale of fees being charged in the industry.

The scale of fees comes with framework stipulating amount to be paid to professionals in the built industry for services/job rendered. Overtime, there have been hues and cries on the disparity between different consultants in the industry, which remained a subject of discuss.

Federal Government fixes scale of fees for consultants in the construction industry through a committee, after submission of proposals from each organisation. The last time the government intervened in the process was in 1996. Since then, the professional bodies adjust the fees as they deem fit.

The Guardian learnt that an attempt was made few years to streamline the fees ensure equitable reward for experiences in the professional cadre. But some of the professionals still stalk to the guns on the old order.

Some professional bodies still feel cheated in the scheme of things, while others with their regulatory organs have moved ahead to improve on the fees to reflect economic realities. Most of the bodies now charge their fees on a man-hour basis and others rely on commissions like the estate surveyors.

For instance, in the town planning profession, Association Of Town Planning Consultants Of Nigeria (ATOPCON) facilitated a review by the regulator -Town Planners Registration Council Of Nigeria (TOPREC) approved the 2013 scale of fees that relied heavily on man-hour rates for calculation, which was agreed to by five other regulatory   bodies in the built environment. It is hinged on years of experience.

Thus, whether you are a town planner or an engineer, you receive same fee on a project if your year of experience is same. A town planner with over 20 years of experience earns between N120, 000 and N140, 000 while 15 years experience get N100, 000 – N120, 000 and10years experience between N80, 000 – N100, 000.

Similarly, the Nigerian Institution of Surveyors (NIS) last year adopted new fees. They suggested that the surveyors should be remunerated for consultancy services and for actual costs of carrying out survey jobs. “Unfortunately, the 1992 Federal Government Scale of Fees did not uphold the position of the institution on the matter.

“The 1996 scale of fees for the first time, remunerated the surveyor for his consultancy services and direct cost in the execution of survey works and allows periodic revision of costs based on government official inflation figures,” the said.

According to the institution, “the 2017 is in line with the spirit of the 1996 Federal government scale of fees, has been undated using the inflation figures, from 2006 to 2016, in order to ensure appropriate professional charges by surveyors in the execution of their duties.”

Reacting to the issues surrounding the fees, the President of Nigerian Institute of Building (NIOB), Kenneth Nduka said: “The challenge in the construction industry has been the complaints that the seven professional bodies in the sector are not been treated fairly and equitably.”

He described the discrepancies in professional fees paid to experts in the built environment, as a matter of government policy, which he noted, shouldn’t be a license for the lack of uniformities in the industry.

Nduka lamented that there are some professionals in the industry that claimed to be dominant or those referred to as the early beds that want everything to be done in their own way as well as seek to situate their relevance in order to make an unwarranted point.

“ The current scale of professional charges is based on who are the people making the policy. When those who are making the policy seem to be interested, they shift the policy to suit their interest. The template for professional fees supposes to be the professional bodies’ decision. When the current scale of fees was decided on, all the professional bodies were involved. However, it is one thing to make a very beautiful design, and another issue to functionally implement it”.

He stressed that most people give to themselves greater responsibilities and importance and belief that the problem should exist. He said the situation has caused some operators to complain of interloping and quackery.

“I think the scale of fees was last reviewed about five years ago. Our own scale of fees is not just one, two or three per cent. It is graduated. If you have seen a copy of it, you discovered that at a certain level of amount of contract, it states what it should be. It reduces as the timeline of the contract increases just like what you have in the economy of scale. If you have a job that is big in volume or long in duration, it means the professionals should be constructively engaged over a long period of time. In this instance, it implies that the resources should be kept busy”

Accordingly, he noted that there is a link between scale of fees and job availability in one dimension. He explained that if jobs that are supposed to be done by experts were been hi-jack by non-professionals, only those with values would be engaged.

President of the Architect Consultant Association of Nigeria (ACAN), Mansur Kurfi observed that at a time, the Bureau for Public Procurement (BPP) called all the professionals in the building industry to a meeting with a motive to agree on professional fees scale that is timely based.

“They told us that the international best practice (IBP) is to base the scale on time rather than on percentage. They said our own scale has gone obsolete and so all the professional bodies agreed to work together in order to harmonise the rate for each of the association considering the number of years, experience and each one of us was asked to go and prepare the scale with consideration for hourly, weekly or monthly rates and that is what we are using now”.

He pointed out that the input of each professional warrants the disparity in the industry.

According to him, the said the system appears to be a free for all scenario whereby it’s the professional who would determine the time it would take him or her to do the job.

“Before, the scale was based on the cost of the building but now it is a measure of the time/years of expertise the professional thinks he/she would put into the job. Now the professionals compete within themselves to get the job. We are worried about this development because we are more comfortable with the scale.

As an association, he explained that architects have developed their own parameters ARCON as a regulatory body has been working with the government on the matter.

Kurfi stated that job availability in the market is very low because some people who don’t even want to hire the services of professionals.
“There are people who would go and built a house without designs or some will go and get students to draw for them. This is one of the problems of Nigeria where there are quacks everywhere. We are suggesting a stricter regulation like you have in Lagos to ensure that professionals carry out job designs to check building collapse “, he stated.

For Moses Ogunleye, a former ATOPCON told The Guardian, “Professional bodies determine their fees. There are no discrepancies in the fees; however, there are inconsistencies in its application by professionals. Clients are allowed to over negotiate while low fees are paid. There are so many instances in which practitioners jettison its use and charge less rates in other to secure a job .The code of conduct and ethics considers this as unethical behaviour.

The state of our development as a nation partially accounts for this. Ogunleye said, “Town planners are now well remunerated by the 2013 scale of fees approved by the Town Planners Registration Council.”

By Chinedum Uwaegbulam and Victor Gbonegun
Guardian News