Effectiveness of client involvement in construction projects : a contractor perspective.
Chigangacha, Progress Shingai.
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construction sector in South Africa is a significant contributor to employment opportunities and economic growth. In the year 2013 alone, R262 billion was spent within the industry. Despite the huge spending, a report by the Construction Industry Development Board indicated that some clients remained dissatisfied with the project outcomes. This was demonstrated after a survey conducted in 2011 found that clients were generally neutral or dissatisfied with the quality of construction on around 20% of all projects, and around 12% of the projects that were surveyed had levels of defects which are regarded as inappropriate. Clients have been argued to be the most important construction industry participants as they initiate and fund the construction process from inception to completion. Therefore, business in the construction industry is about fulfilling client satisfaction. Client satisfaction has been linked to the level of client involvement and control in construction projects. Inadequate level of client involvement, especially during many of the most critical project activities has led to problems experienced on construction projects, some of which hinder project success. These problems include but are not limited to construction disputes, uncertainties in plans and specifications, and delays in giving the contractor vital information or instructions. While effective client involvement in their construction projects is important to achieve a successful project, contractors perceive their involvement as being too low resulting in unsatisfactory project delivery. Therefore, this research aimed to examine the role and effectiveness of client involvement on construction projects from the perspective of contractors. The study investigated the nature of the client, and their involvement in construction projects, at the same time ascertaining how this involvement could impact on the project outcomes, and assessing to what extent a client should be involved in the construction process. The study also assessed whether early client involvement and trust and co-operation between the client and contractor facilitated project success. Based on analysis of data gathered via questionnaire surveys from 101 contractors, 18 consultants and 19 clients, it was found that the significant and dominant usage of the traditional procurement method by both public and private sector clients in South Africa can be confirmed. It was also found that although alternative procurement methods were not widely adopted in South Africa, the private sector was more open and flexible in utilising them, with the next most used methods being the design and build and negotiation. Contractors placed great importance on project stakeholder relations which could be attributed to the shortcomings of the traditional method, which include but are not limited to adversarial relations and high occurrence of misunderstandings and conflicts. Issues of trust, honesty and cooperation in the context of clients underpinned project stakeholder relations and were regarded as vital for project success. In terms of client involvement, this study found that contractors regarded private sector clients to be more frequently involved in their projects than public sector clients. Furthermore, although optimum client involvement across all the project phases is crucial for project success, contractors regarded the pre-construction phase to be a priority phase for client involvement, followed by the post construction phase. The study recommends that public sector clients should be more flexible to adopt the most suitable procurement method instead of relying on the traditional procurement method which might not necessarily be the most appropriate. Alternative procurement arrangements may allow for greater and earlier client involvement in their construction projects.