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Planners decry unfavourable consultancy climate

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Ogunleye

The business environment in which town planning consultants operate have been described as diverse and complex, thereby unfavourable to the practice of the profession.

Such complexities refer to regulatory and policy framework, the level of economic growth in the country, among other things.
The professionals are thus called upon to consistently run their business with a value of a going concern so that they can compete with the best in other countries in service delivery.

These disclosures were the fall-out of the annual general meeting of the Association of Town Planning Consultants of Nigeria (ATOPCON). The guest lecturer was Mr. Moses Ogunleye, a fellow of the Institute of Town Planners (NITP).

Speaking on the topic: ‘Business Models for Cutting Edge Consultancy Practice in Town Planning,’ he stated that although the consultancy services in town planning is backed by regulation just as only those registered by town planners registration council (TOPREC) can practice the profession, on the other hand, policies formulated to strengthen the practice are not effectively enforced. This, he said has lead to strangulation of the firms.

He added: “dominance of small firms with weak business strategy and undefined /unclear business model exists on a large scale even as there is limited capacity of the regulator (Town Planning Registration Council) TOPREC”.

He called for increased recognition of town planners through appointment into public offices such as minister, honourable, commissioner and special adviser, with potential for promoting the profession and influencing policy decisions.

Ogunleye equally identified certain practices adverse to consultancy opportunities in the profession to include the inability of public sector practitioners to sell through proposals which could generate consultancy services from government and sharp practices by registered but ‘non – consultant’ town planners who engage in consulting and carry out low quality services, while charging unreasonable or ridiculous fees.

Defining a consultant as someone who provides expert or professional advice in a particular field to an individual, organization or government, he revealed through statistics that the practice is yet to gain grounds in the town planning profession.

“Town Planning practitioners in Nigeria in the private sector or consultancy are less than 10 per cent; the oldest firms are between 38 and 45 years old established in Lagos and Ibadan; 84 per cent of firms are a few and relatively small with less than five employees each; over 70 per cent of income or fees earned by town planning firms are through advocacy / representation (particularly through development control related services)”.

Revealing that Lagos State is dominant in the location of planning firms as well as in the volume and contract value (fees) of service rendered, he disclosed, however, that there has been a substantial increase in the number of registered firms in the last ten years, from 73 firms in 2004 to 317 in 2014 and over 350 in 2016. This, he said, indicates increased awareness by the public or service beneficiaries on the values in the services of the consultant town planner.

According to him, noticeable improvements in the sector include changes in the former trend of retired public sector practitioners setting up firms.

Chairman of the occasion, Segun Adedeji, an engineer, that the topic of the day lends credence to the fact that consultancy practice is a level of business which deserves very high profitability.

“It is observed from personal experience that consultants in the built environment – architects, engineers, quantity surveyors, town planners, estate surveyors and valuers – do not pay enough attention to the business aspects of their practice. For example, unlike the law profession, they give lots of services ex-gratis to friends, relations, colleagues and associates. Moreover, for a long time, they accepted the unfair scale of fees imposed on them by government. It is sometimes difficult for them to even break even on projects,” he added.

The chairman, ATOPCON, Mr. Omotayo Awomosu, told the gathering that member firms have a big role to play in surmounting the challenges facing the profession.



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