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Roads and highways have been held to be of paramount importance to the economic wellbeing of a country. Such roads and highways are constructed by the government or governmental agencies for its citizens. Iran is no exception to this rule, and it has a number of well paved roads which connect into the neighboring countries. Highways aid efficiency and reliability in the transportation systems. Poorly completed roads are expensive in terms of costs and time which take one to travel through them. There have been rampant delays in construction of highways in Iran.
A number of factors have been attributed to this delay. Poor planning, financial difficulties and unqualified contractors have been held to be the leading causes of delay in highway constructions. Lacks of adequate materials and equipment have also been found to contribute to these delays. These delays are, therefore, contributed to by both the clients and the contractors. Some delays are caused by 'acts of God' within the definition of the law of contract.
These delays can be reduced or eliminated through a number of ways. They can be reduced through proper project planning and execution. Construction designs should also be made by competent personnel, and there should be an approval mechanism which has been put in place. Financial planning also goes a long way in reducing delays in highway constructions.
Background to the Study
Iran is a developing country located in south East Asia. The country has a massive economic growth because of the presence of oil resources. However, the economic growth has been hampered with inflation and unemployment. Infrastructural development has not been left behind and Iran Boosts of nice paved roads and highways. However, there has been a continuous challenge in the making of the roads.
Every country prioritizes infrastructural developments in a bid to improve the livelihoods of its citizens. The government funds road constructions with the main of aim easing transportation once the roads are complete. Road and highway construction are funded by the government of Iran, but these are marred by delays. There have been experienced massive delays in the construction of highways. The delays have a number of negative effects on the Iranian government as well the population in general. Roads are meant to foster convenience and remove congestion. Roads also take a lot of resources in terms of finances and manpower. The delay in completion has occasioned losses to the Iranian government because of the degradation of the roads which have been started, but have not yet been completed. This makes the government divert other monies, which could aid in other developmental areas into road constructions. The unfinished roads and highways also pose safety challenges to the Iranian population because sometimes they have to use the roads as they are. Bad roads not only slow transportation but also have a tendency to spoil vehicles. They are also very uncomfortable when traveling.
Most of the unemployed people in Iran have resorted to business. Most are involved in weaving mats and other handicrafts. These products need to be transported to their destination markets. Some of the mats and carpets are sold locally while others are imported. However, poor road constructions hamper this transportation and lead to losses on the businessmen.
The above show that delay in highway construction hampers development processes as well as endangering the lives of the Iranian population. It also leads to losses of government funds. There is a need to address the delay in construction so as to provide an end to the practice. This problem can only be solved by looking at the root cause. The problem will only be solved, not by looking at the construction process itself, but by looking at why the delay is occasioned.
This paper addresses the problem of delay in the construction process as a way of providing an end to the delay in road construction process in Iran. The paper will trace the road construction from inception to completion and point out possible avenues for the delays. The researcher will analyze the data collected using the various methodologies. The analysis will be both qualitative as well as quantitative. The researcher will conclude the paper with Irecommendations of how to reduce delays in road constructions in Iran. It is hoped that this paper will serve as an eye opener to those who will see it and that it will awaken a spirit of advocacy within them. Delay in road construction affects every individual directly or indirectly. This is because delays in road construction will lead to inconvenience in transportation of goods and in turn, the sellers will increase the costs of commodities in a bid to recover the money spent on the delays.
Completion of highway construction projects in Iran has been marred by delays which has in turn affected the economy, as well as the safety of Iranian nationals. The problem of highway completion is a vice which has affected many countries.
Purpose of the Research
The purpose of this research is to address the above problem of highway completion in Iran. This is by looking at the problems which cripple the highway construction process and also by laying down recommendations which may wipe away the vice if taken into consideration.
To review the literature on managing highways construction projects with specific reference to Iran
To identify the key issues that lead to projects not meeting their objectives.
To make recommendations for improvement in the way that highway construction projects are managed in Iran.
How are highway construction projects managed generally?
What are the key issues which lead to delay in highway completion in Iran?
What can be done so as to improve or eliminate the delay in Highway construction in Iran?
Significance of the Study
The study is about rampant delays in highway constructions in Iran. The study is useful to activists who are advocating for a convenient and a safer Iran. The study is also useful to the government because it will aid them in monitoring the highway constructions being undertaken in Iran. The study will also be useful to contractors who are contracted to make roads in Iran. From the study, the researchers will be able to decipher what exactly cause road construction delays and device ways of circumventing it.
Scope of the Study
This study covers delays in highway constructions in general but with a specific emphasis on the Islamic Republic of Iran. The literature review will borrow from the various studies conducted from within and outside Iran, while the data collected will be limited to Iran. The study covers the importance of roads, delay in road constructions and its associated problems caused by delays, and possible ways of eliminating or reducing the delay.
Importance of Highways
The importance of highways is to be considered in light of the work it does. The consideration is had on the quantity of traffic which passes through the road in a particular moment. When the road is not completed, it means that most vehicles will divert and pass through other available roads. Another issue to be considered is the type of vehicles which pass through a certain route in a given time. When the road is incomplete, then only large vehicles and trucks will tend to use it because of the major portholes and other terrace found in an incomplete route. Small cars will tend to divert to other available routes. The speed of the vehicles is also another determinant to be considered when determining the usefulness of a road. When a road is incomplete, vehicles will tend to move slowly in a bid to maneuver. Totally incomplete routes will be impassible, and it will have no traffic (Thomas, 1985).
From the above paragraph, it can be noted that a complete highway has a number of advantages. The road can accommodate an immense number of vehicles. This will ensure that the available road resources are utilized fully. A good highway will also enable vehicles to move in the speed they desire. This is helpful to the passengers and business people because they are able to reach their destinations within the stipulated time and minimize loss on their goods because of spoilage or delay.
According to Soon (2007), good roads not only provide convenience to the users, but also contribute to the economic stability of the country indirectly. Good highways will promote trade by opening up otherwise land locked areas as well connecting markets. Complete highways will also attract foreign investors who want to invest their money. These investors will enter a country and invest as well as provide employment opportunities for the locals. They will also benefit the government in terms of all the licenses, taxes and permits which they will have to pay for. Investors value good infrastructure because it promotes efficiency and flexibility when doing business. This is because completed highways are cost effective in terms of travelling costs and the time involved.
Effects of incomplete Highways
When the highway has been started, and the state has spent a considerable amount of money on it , yet it has not been completed within the stipulated time, then the contractors are deemed to have delayed in completion (Jagboro, 2002). Many projects in Iran have their time periods extended because of the impending delay in construction. Highways are normally built as expansions of an already existent road. What this means is that there will be interruptions to the traffic flows. The road can either be partially usable or be closed entirely (Jagboro, 2002). When the road is partially passable the users will have to be extra careful and thus will drive slower.
Enshassi (2009) is of the opinion that delayed projects will cost more in terms of costs and money. This is more so when the mode of payment of the project is determined in the time within which the project will be complete. Some projects are also abandoned midway, and this means that the government has to chip in more money to aid in the completion of the project. The time wasted is also expensive because it means that the motorists who were meant to use the roads will be forced to find alternative routes for the time being.
According to Zaneldin (2006), delay in highway construction has the effect of slowing down the economic development in the area. His reasoning is that good transport network is the backbone of any economy and that any delays caused, especially on major highways, have the tendency of slowing economic growth. One of the contributions of economic prosperity of a country is flourished trade and foreign direct investments. These two factors depend largely on the available infrastructure. Investors will be reluctant to invest in a place with inadequate road networks. Highways also tend to connect cities or countries. Most of the trade taking place in a developing country like Iran, takes place between the countries or the cities. When this connecting road network is unavailable or incomplete, then the trade will tend to reduce.
Soon (2007) pointed out that when a construction contract delays in its completion, it will give rise to other undesired factors such as litigation, disputes and abandonment. When a dispute arises, the courts may determine to stop all projects pertaining to the dispute pending the determination of the case. Litigation and disputes also cost a lot of money to the state, while that money would have been used to further other developmental projects. The suits entered to also, may spoil the reputation of the state to other potential construction companies especially if the disputed company is foreign. Disputes, and especially when litigated, tend to take long periods of time to complete because they involve complex matters. Soon further contends that delays may lead to abandonment. Abandoned projects are expensive to the county because the government will have to issue other invitations to tender and follow the long tendering process in a bid to get another constructor. The new constructor may not approve of the already laid down plans, and he may wish to start a fresh. This will prove to be very expensive to the government and time consuming for users of the roads.
Root Causes of the Delays
Thomas (1985) attributed the delay in highway construction to poor site management and change of instructions by clients. From his point of view, the delay caused is two way in that it can come from the constructor or from the client, who in most cases of highway constructions is the government. According to him, delay will be occasioned when the site of construction is poorly managed. Poor management entails lack of proper supervision and/or planning. When a construction site lacks proper planning, it means that workers will not put all their efforts into the work they are doing. There will be a lot of time wasted, and this will cumulatively cause delays. According to this writer, supervisors play a crucial role in ensuring that the workers do not idle around , and that materials are used efficiently. Poor planning entails the poor preparation of work schedules and ineffective material ordering procedures. Lead times in material ordering lead to delays in the completion of the project. The manager in charge should be wary and notice any shortage well in advance. Good planning also entails strategic allocation of work to the workers.
According to Thomas (1985) another significant source of delay is the change of instructions by client. The client may change instructions pertaining the design or the passage of the road. Such a change will inconvenience the construction company because it means that they might have to go to the drawing board in order to start planning afresh. The client can change their instructions because of errors which they might have made at the inception of the contract. This change of instructions might be based on acquisition of new material information which affect the location or the design of the road. When a project is to be abandoned and another one started, it means that the contracting process is deemed to have begun all over again. When the government initiates the change by change of instructions, it means that it will have to cater for the extra costs. However, when it is the construction company which occasion delay because of poor planning or supervision, it may be the one to pay, or it can impute unforeseeable work to the government and the government will have to pay.
Delay has also been attributed to disagreements and adverse weather conditions (Lim & Mohammed, 2000). According to them, disagreements arise within the construction company on how best to implement the projects they receive. The subjects of these disagreements include the material type to be used, division of duties, and where to start the project. These wrangles are mainly internal, and they can only be solved internally. Such a team will normally have no unity and teamwork because their work entail win-lose situations. The person who losses will tend to spoil for the person who wins. These wrangles end up delaying the project because it means that all of them are not giving their all efforts to the construction. In his paper, they also expounded on the issue of unfavorable weather conditions. Highway construction is a job which is done in the open it is affected by adverse whether conditions. When the rains are heavy, the materials and the laid down foundations may be washed away necessitating the work to be done again. Adverse weather conditions such as snowing may also necessitate the construction to be stopped until the weather is favorable again. This is an 'act of God' in the law of contracts, and it does not attract any damages. The state is to consider the time wasted because of the weather and extend the deadline.
Minchin has advocated the delay to the shortage of labour and materials (2001). According to him, specialized labour for construction of highways may be limited, especially so when the construction company is foreign, and it hoped to employ more workers from the host country. It should be noted that developing countries such as Iran may lack technical expertise to put up highways. When such a shortage occurs, the construction company may extend the time required for the completion of the project, or it may cancel the tender and offer to another company which has enough work force and will not tend to disappoint the country. Material shortage also affects the time within which a project can be completed. When the materials are not available locally, the construction company will have to import them, and this will increase the lead time. When this happens, the company will always add some time to the construction company to enable it to look for the right materials. If the constructor is forced at such a juncture, he may decide to use low quality products and thus affecting the quality, and durability of the highway prepared. Such highways will also endanger the lives of the people who pass through it because it will be weaker.
Delay has also been attributed to lack of materials in the market (Toor, 2008). According to Toor, this is one of the major causes of highway construction delays because, without materials, no work can be done. Lack of materials in the market cannot be blamed on anybody because it is difficult to predict that materials will lack from the manufacturers. It is to be noted that the process of acquiring contracts of the government is through bidding. Therefore, before a bid can be accepted, the construction company does not know whether they will get the tender. They have to wait until they are offered the tender before they can procure the materials. It should also be noted that money to construct highways is a lot, and the construction company may depend on deposits from the government in order to start construction. The materials quoted in the tender document will be depleted in the market before the company starts to work on the project. When such a situation arise, it means that the construction company may have to wait for the materials to be manufactured, or they may sit down and see how they will change their materials by substituting with the readily available materials. The company can also opt to order the manufacture from the manufacturers as special orders. All these processes, according to Toor, will contribute to delay in highway construction process. These delays take long to resolve, and this will further push the project completion date further forward.
Sometimes mistakes are made on the design documents by the project engineers (Sambasivan & Soon, 2007). The design documents are the documents which will be used as a guideline in the construction process. Highway and road constructions are long term assets of the country, and it should be ensured that they are built in the right way. Mistakes in construction documents may lead to poor highways which are not durable in nature and which will end up endangering the lives of the users. When the design documents contain errors and mistakes and the construction project has been started, the remedies will depend on the nature of the error. If the error is fatal in the sense that it totally affects the quality of the road made, then the constructors may have to restart the process again. If the error is not fatal to the project, like when the highway passes through a wrong designated are, and threatening lawsuits on trespass by the owner of the intruded property, then the government may have to negotiate on the compensation of the trespassed land. Whichever way it is decided, the error or mistake, will have to lead to delays. This is because every process will be stopped pending the final determination of the error. This stoppage is what causes delays to the completion of the project. This delay is attributed to the negligence of the contractors when making the design documents.
Delay has also been attributed to the award of contracts to unqualified contractors (Toor, 2008). This mostly happen in developing countries like Iran and especially so when the government in place lacks integrity. When contracts are acquired through corrupt channels, there is a higher possibility that the contractor is not qualified. The unqualified contractor will have difficulties in completing the roads because it lacks enough technical knowhow on how to conduct such constructions. It should be noted that making some roads is much easier that construction of highways. Construction of highways will, therefore, require a contractor who is duly qualified and has had enough experience in the kind of work being awarded to him. The contractor should have done other similar works before, and it should have a good integrity. Lack of the necessary qualifications by a contractor will not only cause delays in the completion of the project, but also endanger the lives of the users because of the shoddy work which will be done. Hiring of unqualified contractors will be blamed on the government for lack of enough scrutiny of a contractor before being engaged. The government in such cases may plead misrepresentation and deceit from the contractor. When such a deficiency is noticed earlier in the construction project, or is it is thought that the highway constructed will not be suitable for the use of motorists, then the tender will have to be cancelled and the tendering process begun again. This will tend to elongate the project completion process and cause delays in constructions.
Meeampol & Ogulan (2006) have attributed the delays to financial difficulties, which are experienced in the process of building the highways. The financial difficulties may result from lack of enough funds from the government or by the contractors. However, lack of funds by the contractors can be solved by taking an advance from the government if the construction contract allows for such a thing. If the delay is occasioned on the part of the government, it may be that the expected donor funds have not been released. This happens when the road constructed is funded by donors. The cause of action in such a case will depend on the cause of the delay. However, the overall effect will delay the completion of the highway construction. This delay will depend on the availability of funds and may end up being indefinite.
Other factors, which cause delays, have been held to be associated with subcontractors, lack of the required equipment and political decisions and instability in the client country. Subcontractors are the contractors who are chosen by the contractor to aid them in some areas of the construction process. Subcontractors are not vetted by the client, and they are solely chosen by the contractors. If they choose incompetent subcontractors, this will lead to a delay in the construction process, and it may necessitate the contractors to employ other subcontractors. It is to be noted that contractors bear the liability of the subcontractors to the client. This may act as a caution on them to choose qualified and competent subcontractors. Lack of equipment is also another problem which may face the construction process. However, this problem is minimal in highway construction because the companies, which are contracted to construct highways, are usually qualified and experienced constructors who know the tools of their trade. However, in the case that such a deficiency will occur, it will delay the construction process while the materials are being procured. Political decisions and instability will also lead to delays. When there is instability in the country where the construction is taking place, the project might have to be delayed because of the safety of the contractors. This delay will also be indefinite and will depend on the end of the instability.
Solutions to the delays
It has been suggested that to eliminate delay, proper project planning should be undertaken (Toor, 2008). According to him, if informed planning is undertaken, and contractors are made to adhere to the planning, then delays will not occur unless on the unavoidable circumstances such as adverse weather conditions. Proper project planning should be done at the inception of the project and then it be reviewed from time to time to ensure adherence to the plan. Amendments and modification can be undertaken in order to ensure that the project is realistic.
According to Gritza & Labi (2008), delays in highway completion can be reduced or eliminated through adequate financing. Both the client and the contractor to ensure that they have enough capital at their disposal, which will aid the completion of the project. Financial agreements to be made at the inception of the project and the contractor should indicate to the client on his possibility of seeking advances. When proper financial planning is undertaken, the project will not have to be delayed because of lack of finances. Construction projects take a lot of money, and if it is not well planned, it can lead to the stalling of the project. If the money to be used is donor funds, the client is to keep the donor updated on what is happening on the ground and inform them well in advance when the money will be needed. The contracts between the client and the contractor should stipulate what will happen when the project is faced by unforeseen circumstances like when the expense of building the project is increased.
There should also be proper construction design and approval (Myers $ Devey, 1986). The project design should be prepared by competent personnel and should also be approved before the project is relied on in the construction. This will eliminate delays which are occasioned by erroneous project designs. The approval route should also be known and decided well in advance. This will also make the designers particularly diligent because they may be held personally liable for any mistake that may be occasioned. Meyers and Devey have also propounded in the importance of choosing a competent project manager. A competent project manager will have the requisite knowledge to monitor the implementation of the project step by step. Such a manager will also be able to foresee any problem which may arise during the implementation of the project.
Finally, a proper contract, which stipulates the right and obligations of each party, will go a long way in increasing accountability and devotion from the contractors and the client. When everyone knows their obligations and duties under the contract, and the consequence of non performance, then there is a higher probability that they will adhere to the provisions of the contract to the latter. When the client delays or fails to undertake their obligation, then the government will hold them liable for their actions and they may have to pay damages. The client may also be forced to compensate the contractor when a delay on their part occasions loss to the contractor (Asaff & Al-Hejji, 2006).