19 April 2017
Minister Simon Coveney has reaffirmed his commitment to see the Construction Industry Register Ireland put on a statutory footing in the coming months. This is notwithstanding the apparent conflict of interest of private representative membership organisation being tasked with policing their own members, and the perception by Consumer groups and opposition politicians that that there is little in the way of enhanced consumer protections in a privately-owned and operated contractors’ register of competence.
The Construction Industry Register Ireland (CIRI) was launched by the CIF three years ago with the promise that it would “try to distinguish legitimate construction companies/ sole traders from those who have given the industry a bad name”. Then Minister Phil Hogan, said that CIRI would be a “critically important steps towards restoring public confidence in the construction industry”.
Our current privatised system of self-regulation BCAR SI9 has registers of competence, currently mandatory for professionals (engineers have a non-statutory register), and non-mandatory for contractors. These registers are intended to give consumers greater protection by regulating the respective professionals and builders involved in the industry.
The following post from April 2015 focused on the consumer complaints procedures of the private register of contractors owned and operated by the Construction Industry Federation, CIRI. Click on title for original post:
Minister Alan Kelly has noted that the new building regulations have robust complaints procedures for each discipline involved, guaranteeing consumer protection that if a registered member was found to be in breach of their duties then robust disciplinary procedures would result.
Under SI.9 each key stakeholder handles complaints against their own members- Chartered Surveyors police their own SCSI register, architects police the RIAI register etc. Industry commentators consider this to be a clear conflict of interest. Others have suggested that the bar for sanctions and disqualification has been set very high deliberately, that removal from a register may be a remote possibility for members only in the event of gross misconduct.
The reality is despite numerous recent high-profile building failures there have been no sanctions against architects or surveyors for complaints in the past 6 years.
We will examine some dispute procedures in various registers in upcoming posts. In this one we will look at the Builder’s register, CIRI.
The Construction Industry Federation (CIF) operate CIRI, the new register for builders written into BC(A)R SI.9. CIRI is currently voluntary but is due to come in on a statutory footing in 2015. The CIF section dealing with complaints under the new CIRI construction register, is here. We quote directly from the section on complaints about contractors [emphasis in bold by BRegs Blog].
“Before making a complaint to the CIRB, the following actions are advised:
You should put your concerns in writing … You should check the terms of contract… You should raise your concerns with your appointed Designer and Assigned Certifier and ascertain if this can bring about a resolution to concerns raised…If you do not receive a satisfactory response to the concerns raised…you may contact the CIF for general advice.”
“What can the CIRI do?
…Under the provisions of the Construction Industry Register Ireland, the CIRI will offer an independent Mediation Service aimed at resolving problems and disputes between registered members and their clients…
The CIRI is not in a position to intervene in any contractual dispute between a registered member and a client or to give specific advice or assistance on any technical issue.”
Under new building regulations introduced last March, an Assigned Certifier has no rights to instruct any builders or even to enter the building site. It is difficult to see how any professional occupying this role could be in a position to resolve any disputes. The only action that an Assigned Certifier can take is threaten to withhold a Completion Cert. In many cases the Assigned Certifier is an employee or directly contracted consultant, a builder-developer could just fire the Assigned Certifier and hire someone else to sign off. Not great for the consumer.
Remarkably there is no recourse to any advisory service, complaints body or ombudsman in the new system. A building regulation dispute could become a stand-off between the builder and certifier. We wonder if the regulators, registered professionals and builders, will provide any new consumer protection?
Other posts of interest:
Other posts in “Look-Back” series