Thursday, 7th December 2023

‘Govt should incorporate maintenance budgets in assets acquisition projects’

By Chinedum Uwaegbulam
04 September 2023   |   4:04 am
Paul Erubami is the President, Association of Facility Management Practitioners Nigeria (AFMPN) and Principal Consultant, Max-Migold Limited.

Managing Director, Max-Migold, Paul Erubami

Paul Erubami is the President, Association of Facility Management Practitioners Nigeria (AFMPN) and Principal Consultant, Max-Migold Limited. He spoke with CHINEDUM UWAEGBULAM on the challenges experienced by facility management professionals, how to increase investments and develop the services market, as well as ensure effective national public buildings maintenance policy.

Negative economic trends, especially increasing inflation and devaluation of the naira, have led to several abandoned real estate projects in the public and private sectors. How would it affect facilities management in the country?
Facility management is the fastest growing and most stable sector in the built environment because of recent general awareness of the strategic importance of facility management in ensuring the well-being and productivity of people, the most valuable assets of all organisations, as well as preservation and improvements in asset valuation through proper management practices.

Abandoned real estate projects due to recent economic upheavals may result in a marginal slowing down of the stable growth experienced in the facility management sector in the long-term but will have a more significant immediate to short-term negative impact on the engineering, design, and construction sectors of the built environment. The facility management profession will always be relevant. It will keep growing because we manage the existing stock of buildings even if the construction of new facilities slows down or stops.

As a multi-disciplinary profession, we are made up of professionals from a wide range of disciplines, from design, engineering, real estate management, building, administration, management, who come with transferable skills from our disciplines to embrace the facility management body of knowledge, which provides effective frameworks for cost-efficient, effective, and sustainable management of the built environment.

With the increasing demand for facility management professionals in the country, there are still no facility management undergraduate degree awarding institutions, which means we have to depend on training programs from private institutions and companies as well as a handful of universities’ professional master’s degrees all designed to serve as professional conversion programmes which equip professionals from the multiple disciplines with FM body of knowledge and skills to take up the numerous profitable opportunities in the FM sector.

However, with inflationary pressures and the rising cost of materials and services, facility management professionals face the challenge of maintaining building standards in an era when businesses and organisations, both public and private corporations, enter basic survival mode. The strategic value of professional facility management is being undermined and relegated. Professional services are being commoditised so that imminent service and safety failures are being overlooked as budgets are slashed with disproportionate negative impacts on facilities services.

The professionally trained facility manager understands the economic pressures on their organisations and will take steps to re-strategise to ensure that scarce resources are directed to the most critical areas of compliance, health and safety, and protection of assets critical to the organisations’ mission in line with corporate strategy and business continuity plans.

What factors are increasing investment in and development of Nigeria’s facility management services market?
One, economic considerations. Organisations with large property portfolios that were not professionally managed in the past realise the waste of resources, which has impacted their bottom lines. They are now investing in professional facility management resources to manage internally or outsourcing their facility management services to established service providers. Energy and service delivery costs can grow out of control if proper processes are not in place for strategic facility planning, operational and capital budgeting, operations and maintenance processes, emergency preparedness, and business continuity planning, among other professional inputs from facility management.

Two, environmental compliance risk management. Even when management does not pay much attention to their operations’ health, safety, security, and environmental impact, regulatory authorities may force them to give more consideration to these issues. Since these are not their core business, they must find professionals who can help them navigate the built environment’s compliance requirements.

Three, quality management system requirements. As organisations continue to embrace quality management systems to prove their capacities and competence in their chosen businesses, not having requisite processes in place for managing their physical assets will continue to be a drag as it exposes them to quality systems non-conformities which can be addressed by engaging professional facility management services.

Four, corporate image and social responsibility. As organisations mature in their primary domains, there comes the need to attract the best talents by being perceived as a great place to work, which requires the input of professional facility management in creating spaces and services to achieve this. Corporate social responsibility initiatives also become part of the strategic positioning for positive public relations and customer perception management. Facility management plays a crucial role in the development and execution of corporate social responsibility actions.

Five, sustainability credibility. Organisations are beginning to appreciate the benefits of embracing the triple-bottom-line approach to business planning and execution. Facility management helps achieve profitability targets by managing costs and improving asset value, which is the economic bottom line of profit. Facility management helps in managing environmental impacts from buildings and their operations, such as energy, materials, water resources, thermal comfort and ambience issues all having significant implications on an organisation’s carbon footprint and sustainability credibility.

Six, globalisation, technological advancements and trends. Multinational organisations are extending facility management models deployed across multiple jurisdictions and seeking local partners to manage their property portfolios in Nigeria. Global facility management trends are increasingly being adopted in Nigeria as the speed of knowledge transfer has been fast-tracked in this era of Internet penetration and technology advancements.

The renewed interest by the Federal and many State governments in the adoption of facility management in the maintenance of their buildings and infrastructure assets is a major boost to the facility management sector as many contracts are now being awarded for managing services professionally in the public sector.

Despite the implementation of Executive Order 11 on national public buildings maintenance, the facility management industry is still at low ebb, as governments and many landlords don’t encourage building renovations. What are the challenges facing the practitioners, strategies and processes that should be adopted to ensure effective policy?
We applauded the order as a game changer and panacea to the problems bedevilling public infrastructure. Some of us expressed concern then about some of the issues, which, if addressed adequately, will help the government realise the expected results. One of them is implementation capacity. The Executive Order does not give the newly created department sufficient bite to ensure that maintenance is done properly at the Ministries Departments and Agencies (MDAs), as its role is simply advisory and not so much regulatory. How well resourced, with enough and sufficiently trained team members, are they to accomplish their mandate? We expect that partnership with professional bodies in the built environment will help build capacity for the team if called upon.

We at Association of Facility Management Practitioners Nigeria (AFMPN) are open to working with the relevant government departments and units in realising the objectives of Executive Order 11 around training and capacity building.

On budget planning and execution, the Executive Order 11 did not mention specific funding sources or instruments for the proposed improved maintenance, implying that the budgetary structures for planning, the release of funds and execution of operations and maintenance activities will not be altered or improved. As such, the officers in charge may not have the means to do anything differently from the prevailing practices.

Despite the very robust public procurement processes and controls in place with the enactment of the Public Procurement Act PPA of 2007, which gives the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) sweeping powers to regulate public procurement in Nigeria, professionals in the built environment and the general business community still can’t express confidence that the expected transparency, accountability, value for money and efficiency of procurement processes enshrined in the published regulations of the BPP are being realised.

For there to be a full realisation of the objectives of the renewed drive for improved maintenance of public buildings and infrastructure in Nigeria, Executive Order 11 should be amplified and elevated into an Act on effective facility management, which should, among other things, create the office of Facility Manager General for the three tiers of government and mandate lifecycle planning approaches, including the incorporation of maintenance budgets and programmes into new physical assets acquisition projects before budget approval.

Giving the Department of Federal Public Assets Maintenance FM General’s office, the enforcement powers to make sure the right things are done at the MDAs and be able to sanction defaulters; mandate that building plan approvals for private sector developments should be made to incorporate lifecycle operations and maintenance programmes developed by professional facility managers to ensure that the principles of operational readiness, maintainability and sustainability are given adequate consideration before granting planning approval for the development to proceed.

Also, ensure that qualified professionals in the built environment handle all building maintenance contracts awarded. These will result in an economic boom, as the built environment services sector will create the anticipated millions of jobs, with increased safety and sustainability of our environments and increased asset valuations for public and corporate asset owners.

The facility management services sector will take its rightful place as a major contributor to the Gross Domestic Product, as is the case in most developed economies.

Several professional groups in the facilities management industry are trying to create an environment for the functionality of the built environment. How has this proliferation affected the industry? What are the plans to unify all these professional groups?
The proliferation of facility management professional bodies is a great development for the sector. It shows that facility management has come to stay and is being appreciated and adopted across the built environment as the best way to manage physical assets. Being a relatively new profession, closing the capacity gaps in the provision of professional facility management to both the private and public sectors requires that all hands be on deck.

We had only the franchises of international facility management associations like International Facility Management Association (IFMA), Institute of Workplace and Facilities Management (IWFM) and Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) for many years providing professional membership services to Nigerians, who identified as facility managers for almost 30 years.

Then came some local professional FM associations like the Institute of Global Facilities Management (IGFM) and the facility management branches of some of the built environment professional bodies like the engineering, surveyors and builders, which helped in no small measure to encourage more professionals to take up facility management, thereby growing the sector tremendously.

The idea behind forming AFMPN was to have a national umbrella body subscribed to by all professionals in the built environment with a unified voice for facility management in Nigeria. All individuals practising facility management in Nigeria and belonging to one or more other facility management and allied built environment professional bodies are invited to join AFMPN. The leadership of AFMPN is made up of professionals from almost all the built environment professions in Nigeria.

We are working with all stakeholders in the built environment to clear all areas of concern or misgivings that make it appear in some quarters that we are not a united body.We are all unified in a single goal of growing the facility management profession, and we embrace the reality that we can and should all use our differing platforms to contribute to this goal.

So, we encourage and support professionals to join any associations; weare working towards future partnerships and collaborations for membership activities and conferences, a possible regulatory framework for the sector, and mutual recognition of training and continuous professional development programs across the professional bodies and institutions.

AFMPN is promoting the Facilities Management Council Bill, which was stalled after going through second reading at the National Assembly. What are the grey areas noticed by the lawmakers?
The Facility Management Council of Nigeria Bill 2017, sponsored by Senator Ahmad Abubakar and Co-sponsored by Senator Ali Ndume and Senator Abdul’aziz Nyako passed a second hearing. There was a well-attended public hearing, and the Senate passed it into law. Still, it did not scale concurrence by the House of Representatives or achieve Presidential assent because of the efflux of time as the National Assembly was winding down when the bill finally got passed in the Senate.

A major setback then was that we did not go as a united front as a built environment professional body. A few groups within the industry felt that they would be left behind and decided to push against the bill. We also had a major setback in raising the required funding for expenses related to the bill preparation, public hearing events and required mobilisation to support the passage.

We will be able to overcome those challenges as we have restarted a new process with the current National Assembly, where a first reading of a new FM-related bill went through first reading. We are already working with all relevant stakeholders to develop something acceptable to all parties before progressing with it.

What are your plans for AFMPN?    
I have a very strong passion for training and capacity building. As the new president of AFMPN, I am committed to ensuring that our members have access to the tools, resources, and training they need to excel in their roles and as they strive to elevate themselves and the profession from obscurity into the limelight.