My hands are clean: Makeka

My hands are clean: Makeka

MASERU – MOKENA Makeka is an award winning architect whose designs have been featured in several publications. He too has been the subject of glowing interviews in several publications. Yet if there is any project that has begun to gnaw at his sterling reputation it is the construction of the Royal Palace. To be fair, Makeka did not create the mess.

He found it there. The question is whether he has made a bad situation worse. As the following interview will reveal, Makeka does not think he should be blamed for the delays and cost overruns. He was responding to prepared questions through a communications consultant.

What would you say are the main reasons for the delay in completing the project? Here we ask for a holistic assessment of the project from start to now.

The project officially began in 2008, launched as a competition by the Government of Lesotho. The winning team began work in 2010, two years later. Due to numerous challenges, the design team selected was taken off the project and Makeka Designs was appointed as interior designers in 2012.
Our firm was appointed as Architect in 2014, six years after the original launch of the project. The first step was to conduct a comprehensive audit of the work that had been done by the previous team. We found that the building was not structurally sound.

We proposed two courses of action: to work with what we had and implement changes, or to wipe the slate clean and begin the building from scratch. We decided to go with the former. To date, we have produced an estimate of 1000 drawings. It is a living project, with changes being implemented as we build.

It is important to note that Makeka Designs inherited a flawed structure as well as the previous team, which includes the structural engineer, architect, manufacturers, electrical engineers, quantity surveyors, contractor, sub-contractors and consultants.
It is a multi-component team of which the client is very much a part. We interrogated the landscape that we found. We set realistic timelines. We adhered to best practices and we professionalised the project. Makeka Designs is an award-winning firm with a global reputation of which we are very proud.

We have ethics as well as a professional code of conduct. This is also the only palace being built in the world and we are committed to designing a building that Lesotho can be proud of.  However, design is inherently a team effort. All parties contribute to the success of the project and are accountable for any delays.

For example, delays by the client in the approval of designs or disbursement of payments to suppliers and consultants can push back delivery from members of the team.

Makeka Designs does not have a say over when suppliers and consultants get paid, nor over whether or not to work with certain consultants.
The design is just as much a reflection of the client’s decision-making as it is Makeka Designs’ vision. At present, the contractor, client and consultants are all aware that they have been instructed to finish the project before the end of the year.

With all hands on deck and every member of the team’s timely contribution to the project, I believe that we are on track to meet this deadline.

It would seem that when Makeka Designs became the Architect they too set deadlines for themselves to complete this project. Those deadlines have been missed twice, if not several times. What would you say are the reasons for this?

As previously noted, design requires a multi-faceted approach and Makeka Designs began this project with a team, systems, challenges and opportunities that were already in place. As the principal agent, our job is to ensure we meet the client’s expectations.
As we do with all of our clients globally, we remained committed to delivering the highest standard of professionalism and quality.

However, our work is not independent of the decisions and actions of other professionals involved in the project; these include the client, structural engineer, architect, manufacturers, electrical engineers, quantity surveyors, contractor, sub-contractors and consultants.
Everyone has to play their part in order for deliverables to be met in a timely manner. It is therefore incorrect and ill-advised to attribute delays to Makeka Designs as numerous parties are accountable and responsible for the completion of this project.

Rather, the following dynamics should be taken into consideration:

l The time lapse between the launch of the project and our appointment as the principal agent.

l The starting point: the structural flaws of the building as inherited by Makeka Designs and the work required and planned to implement changes.

l The operational challenges that come with merging team efforts, aligning competencies, professionalizing a project and working in mutual consultation on a landmark building despite previous obstacles.

l The client’s timely appointment of consultants, approval of proposed work and payment of fees.

l Clear lines of decision-making, responsibility and communication across the team structure. All of the above can affect whether or not deadlines are met.

Makeka Designs is not the sole decision-maker on this project. We remain committed to our intention to meet deadlines. However, it must be noted that the nature of the work and team mean that everyone’s desire and responsibility have to align to achieve a common purpose.

How would you describe the nature of the job done by LSP before you became the principal agent?

LSP is a competent contractor. However, a contractor is only as good as the consistency of the client in terms of the clarity of parameters, timely disbursement of payments and approval of budgets.
They also require strong management from an architect, amongst other dynamics. When these key elements are compromised, contractors are not able to deliver to expected standards. This is applicable to any contractor in the world.

Interviews with several people indicate that Makeka Designs also contributed to the delay when it was the interior designer because it was not producing the drawings on time. How true are these allegations?

Makeka Designs would like some clarity on who made the allegations and a frank discussion on the same. Anyone with professional knowledge of the work required will also be able to advise that the nature of design is such that Makeka Designs has never been and is not presently responsible for providing all of the drawings.

Our firm has and continues to meet its deliverables. Design is a collaborative process that necessitates multi-party contributions. We continue to drive for commonality of purpose as we aim for the completion of this project.

There are allegations that Makeka Designs has contributed to the delays as the Architect because it is not producing the Drawings. We have here letters from LSP indicating that there were not getting the drawings on time?

The timely meeting of deliverables on this project, as with any other, is an amalgamation of inputs. Makeka Designs is a representative of the process and not the sole provider of input. We believe that LSP is aware of the same, but we remain open to a direct discussion with LSP if further clarification is necessary.

The initial drawing did not have a roof garden. Was its addition your suggestion or it came from the client?

When Makeka Designs was appointed to the project, we became part of the client body. Design is a collaborative process by its very nature, and any final designs are signed off by the client.

At one time you suggested firing the contractor (LSP). What informed that recommendation?

Makeka Designs has never suggested the firing of LSP. Our job as the principal agent is to give the client options for the decisions that they take.
As elaborated above, we agreed to retain the structure inherited from the previous designers and implement changes, as opposed to destroying it to begin again.
It only makes logical sense that we would recommend the same contractor be retained for continuity purposes.

There are obviously budget overruns caused by the delay. What is the new cost of the project? Is there a possibility that the cost might escalate further?

Makeka Designs, as with any architect and design firm, is not in charge of cost. The client sets the budget and the quantity surveyor monitors the cost on behalf of the client. We are therefore not in a position to comment on cost.

What do you say to allegations that you have suggested several demolitions and additional changes to the initial drawing because you want to push up your fees?

I am a qualified architect and Makeka Designs retains a stellar global reputation and track record. We are committed to ethics as well as to a professional code of conduct. Our fees are determined by industry standards and they do not deviate from these standards. We have not in the past and have no intention of pushing up fees nor of compromising our reputation on any project. We have never been accused of the same. We are shocked and offended by these slanderous allegations, which we believe are made in bad faith. Makeka Designs remains open to a frank discussion with any alleging parties.

You said Makeka Designs never suggested firing the LSP. Are you sure this never happened? I ask because there is a letter from Makeka Designs suggesting this. Please check in the folders because I am sure there was such a letter. I have the letter. Because there has been lots of letters it might be that Makeka Designs has forgotten about the letter.

As you know, no correspondence stands outside of a given context. It is therefore difficult for Makeka Designs to respond to your question, context included, without evidence of the letter of which you speak. Kindly send us a copy of the same letter so that we are in a better position to respond accordingly. As you have rightly said, there have been “lots of letters” and it would be helpful to understand which of these letters you are referring to. Given your looming deadline and our numerous priorities, you would appreciate that requesting us to “check in the folders” is perhaps not the most efficient way to proceed. Nevertheless, I request and trust that no completely and mutually verified information will be published about Makeka Designs.

After the letter was sent Makeka Design’s response was this: As explained in my previous email, the project is one that requires various parties to bring their full weight and competence to the table. In this instance, Makeka Designs was frustrated by the fact that LSP was not pulling its weight as expected by all parties and by client.

The letter was meant to inform the client that they have all options at their disposal and are not hostages to the contractor to complete the project.

Our goal has been and will always be to give the best advice to the client at any given time and this means providing options and alternatives. We have no vested interest in who the contractor is – only that they work to the required specifications at reasonable cost.

We emphasize our disappointment at the breach of confidential and state security information on a national security point. Our professional correspondence to the client has legal bearing that is binding on all recipients. As we have said before, we are duty bound to preserve the privacy of all of our clients, and the professional integrity of the matter. We therefore assert that Makeka Designs does not and has never been involved in leaks or disinformation.

Staff Reporter

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