Women in Construction: Eman Almansoori on the UAE Ministry of Infrastructure’s remit and going smart

Middle East Consultant chats with the director of the Tenders and Contracts Department at the Ministry of Infrastructure Development, about the ministry’s functions, working with consultants and contractors, and the potential of technology

In October this year, the Ministry of Infrastructure Development revealed that it has overseen the maintenance and development of 107 projects over the course of 2017, as part of its bid to meet public expectations. These development works are aimed at improving the performance of schools and federal and local buildings across the country, says Eman Almansoori, director of the Tenders and Contracts Department at the Ministry of Infrastructure Development.

She estimates that 25% of these projects are in Fujairah and 24% are in Sharjah, with 16% in Ras Al Khaimah, 13% in Ajman and the remainder spread across Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Umm Al Quwain. The ministry also maintains 25 schools around the UAE, she adds.

In addition, the maintenance projects in Fujairah cover a number of health centres in Dibba Fujairah, Twain, Halah, Qadfaa and Wadi Sir, along with mosques, court buildings, cultural centres and other municipal buildings. The maintenance projects in Ras Al Khaimah include projects as varied as healthcare centres and hospitals, mosques, schools and even the development of the Shawka Dam outlet, Almansoori adds.

The wide range of projects overseen by the Ministry of Infrastructure Development is indicative of the work being carried out by the Tenders and Contracts Department, Almansoori tells ME Consultant during an exclusive interview at her ministry office in Dubai.

“The Tenders and Contract Department is like the investment arm of the ministry. We deal with the contractors and the consultants. When there is a project in the pipeline, we start the work with the documentation, we coordinate with the other departments in the Ministry of Infrastructure Development and see what they need. We look at what sort of outcome we need from the project and then we put it out to tender and start it,” she explains.

Given the scope of projects her department oversees, Almansoori points out that it is crucial to have as wide a reach as possible, and as such there is extensive advertising of tenders on the ministry’s website and its various social media accounts.

“We also have workshops with the contractors and consultants, and through these channels we try to spread our tenders,” she notes. “The problem we have sometimes is that we don’t have enough contractors that apply for our tenders, so we have to try and extend these tenders out and find other channels to spread the word. The workshops we run work really well for this.

“We need to let the contractors and consultants know about the ministry and inform them about the value of the projects that the ministry is doing on a yearly basis. Sometimes, they don’t know what we actually do and what’s our domain. When they do, they will be more interested in joining us,” she asserts.

Once the ministry has the attention of contractors and consultants, Almansoori says the next step for the Tenders and Contracts Department is to choose the right companies. To do this, they have a classification system in place to help vet the companies and place the right firms in the right jobs.

“It all starts when you choose the correct consultant. Once you choose the right consultant, then you need to have a clear scope of work – what you want delivered and a clear idea of what you need. We have classifications in place for the contractors. For some projects, we go for prequalification, so that we can choose the right consultant or contractor for a project.”

Choosing the right consultant comes down to a variety of criteria, she adds, with price just one of the considerations.

“Their experience is crucial, as well as their financial capabilities. We need to make sure that they can handle the project until the end and won’t have to stop in the middle of a project. Then we also consider the staff and the previous projects they’ve worked on as well,” Almansoori outlines.

However, she remains firm in the belief that the efficiency and performance of the department can improve, and to this end is leading a push towards adopting new technologies and methodologies.

“With our staff, we always try to qualify and update them to any changes in this domain. Everything is done online, starting with registration and the opening of tenders. Now we’re adapting to smart technology and taking everything online, from registration all the way through to the final agenda. As a contractor or consultant, you start the procedure with registration, then classification, and then you participate in the tendering of a project. After that, you try to secure the bid and then submit your bid.

“Keeping in mind that process, I’ve been meeting with companies to see how we can develop and implement smart solutions that will change the traditional processes to the smart city concept. We’re now finalising with some companies in regards to that – to use smart technologies from registration up to the tendering stage, and all the way to the contract award stage.”

Although BIM is currently a construction industry buzzword, Almansoori says the Ministry of Infrastructure Development has long espoused its use for projects, asserting that all bidders for its tenders must highlight their capabilities with the technology.

“We already use BIM within the ministry – it’s been there for about two years now. All the consultants and contractors need to submit their drawings and plans with BIM.”

The department’s work doesn’t stop once the contract is awarded. While the ministry has different departments tasked with handling different aspects of work and projects, the Tenders and Contracts Department must still keep an eye on the overall picture.

“After we sign the contracts, we send all the contracts to the authorised people to take the next step. But even if we have a consultant on the project, we still have to supervise it as the ministry. If there’s any questions or problems of a contractual nature – if there are variations or something – then we can involve ourselves at this stage. But if everything goes well, then we finish our job at the handover stage.

“But there is something else that we do. After finishing the project, we have to take the feedback about the contractors’ and consultants’ work and how they did and all that. This is because we have to put their details back for registration and classification – basically, we have to either upgrade or downgrade them according to their performance on a project.”

Finally, with construction disputes and litigation increasingly prevalent in the UAE construction industry, Almansoori says the Tenders and Contracts Department takes special care to ensure that documentation signed is clear and detailed, so that conflicts don’t arise later on.

“Everything comes from the document. According to my research and experience, most of the problems come from the document stage. If you make sure that your tenders and documents are complete, and that everything is covered there, then you can reduce most of the claims and disputes. You just have to make sure that both parties know their rights and what their responsibilities are. This can reduce most of the claims,” she concludes.

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