There are fake construction permits on the market, City of Kigali warns

While some of the quack architects are using the credentials of their colleagues who are accredited, others are opting for outright forgery of construction permits.
Builders working on a construction project in Kigali. According to the Rwanda Institute of Architects, there are only 130 certified architects in the country and that majority of them shun the professional body due to stringent guidelines that they are obliged to follow. Photo: Sam Ngendahimana

When Joyce, a US-based Rwandan national, wanted to build commercial residential apartments in her home country, she entrusted her brother, Innocent Kimenyi to see through the process, right from the procurement of the construction permit, to supervising the works.

The multi-storied house was set up in Nyarugunga Sector, Kicukiro District, where she had acquired land.

 

Kimenyi went ahead and contracted one Francois ‘Bonfils’ Hategekimana, whom he knew as an architect, to make a design for the building as well as process the construction permit from the city Building Permits Management Information System (BPMIS).

 

Hategekimana told Kimenyi that the structural designs and the procurement of the permit would cost Rwf2.9 million.

 

Unknown to Kimenyi was the fact that Hategekimana was not an accredited architect and him and his sister are paying dearly for this.

According to information available to The New Times, Hategekimana tried to process the permit using the credentials of another accredited architect.

Unfortunately, the City of Kigali’s One Stop Center rejected the application of the construction permit because it did not comply with the set terms and conditions to get it.

Through the system, the City of Kigali suggested some adjustments that needed to be done to secure the construction permit but Hategekimana, grew impatient and decided to forge a permit.

He presented the forged permit with which used to start the construction activities in December 2019.

On a number of occasions during inspections, the City engineers observed recurrent mistakes on the structure, which they recommended the site engineer to adjust but in vain.

It was in July that city engineers decided to run the construction permit in their system and found it was non-existent. It was forged.

On interrogation, Kimenyi informed the authorities that the permit had been processed by Hategekimana, who was later found to be a quack architect.

Rwanda Investigation Bureau (RIB) picked up the case and the suspect was arrested.

“I did not know that the permit was fake until the city engineers told me so. I had to report the architect so they can hold him accountable because he is already putting me into unexpected losses,” Kimenyi said.

Fortunately, the entire structure was not brought down but the city engineers recommended modifications that required bringing down parts of the building.

“On top of that, I had to pay a further Rwf1, 500,000 to a certified architect to get his building design modified so he can be allowed to resume construction activities.

A RIB personnel attached to the City of Kigali told The New Times that Hategekimana’s case was forwarded to the prosecution, becoming the third suspect arrested for forging construction permits this year, according to the City of Kigali.

Quack architects

According to Rwanda Institute of Architects (RIA), such forgery cases are committed by quack architects who are not recognized by the institution.

Speaking to The New Times, Emmanuel Nyirinkindi, the Executive Secretary of RIA, said that such practices bring in disrepute the image of the sector in general.

“Not any architect registered in our council has ever been involved in forgery of any construction document. Such mistakes are in most cases committed by self-proclaimed architects and it’s a worrying situation for us because our image, as professional architects, is in danger as long as there are quack architects out there,” he said.

He added that besides financial loss, such practices may lead to loss of life, in case of a building that is short of requisite standards.

He says people should be vigilant and hence look for qualified and certified architects to ensure that their construction projects are in safe hands.

Asked about accredited architects who may give out their credentials to their colleagues without them, Nyirinkindi said that whoever caught in such act gets his license suspended for at least three years.

To fight the quack architects, the council is looking to work with the City of Kigali during inspections on different construction sites to identify architects who don’t comply with the council’s rules and regulations.

The council, which so far records over 130 professional architects, is planning to raise awareness among people about the importance of working with professional architects to avoid consequences that may result in putting them into huge losses.

Awareness will also be extended to architect professionals who are not yet registered with the council to join the council as a way to successfully monitor forgery claims and other cases persisting in the sector.

Each architect is supposed to have an initial membership fee of Rwf 200, 000 to be registered at the council which may increase depending on their categories.

“Many are reluctant to join the council not because of the membership fee but because they don’t just want to comply with our rules and regulations which are stringent,” said Nyirinkindi.

Project registration is also in the pipeline for people to easily follow up as far as issues about their buildings arise.

Using QR & barcode scanner

The City of Kigali would not have discovered the Hategekimana’s construction permit was fake had city engineers not scanned the permit’s codes with a QR and Barcode scanner to see if the permit was authentic.

People are advised to download the same application from their smartphones and use it to verify the authenticity of the permits.

By using the application, people can find the permit code number, its Unique Parcel Identification (UPI), the permit address and the surface of the plot, the name of the project and the name of the architect who submitted the project.

Enan Habiyambere, the City of Kigali Acting Director of Inspection Unit, said people should be vigilant and working with competent and qualified architects to help them in the application of construction permits as well as check whether they are authentic using the QR & Barcode.

“Our system is only accessed by practicing architects registered at the council. People should therefore approach qualified architects in case they want to start a construction project. We are doing awareness so we make sure those unauthorized architects are avoided,” Habiyakare said.

Construction permits of commercial building, factory, churches, schools, hospitals and any building located in either commercial or industrial zones are only provided by the City of Kigali while district are accredited to provide permit of residential houses.

editor@newtimesrwanda.com

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