The UK Government’s Construction Playbook has 14 key policies for reforming and modernising aspects of public sector projects (and perhaps, with luck and trickle down, the private sector too). However, it will need some robust contract tools to bring those ideas to fruition.

In a series of posts, I consider how contracts will need to change to adequately respond to the Playbook’s policies or themes.

Contract administration

Surprisingly, there is not a single mention in the Playbook about how contracts are to be managed or the role of the contract administrator. Their role is critical in terms of key policies:

  • they administer payment processes (fair or not)
  • they certify completion (whether input or output standards)
  • they will check performance against KPIs
  • they can assist or undermine partners in collaborating
  • they interpret compliance with standards eg in works documents or designs
  • they will inspect and test goods, whether modular and manufactured offsite or built insitu
  • they manage processes such as those relating to the new project scorecards or those for the exchange of data and digital information.

We know from the Arcadis Global Disputes Reports that the role of the contract administrator is critical to avoiding disputes, managing the project team and creating success. There is, for example, no point in the parties signing a conflict avoidance pledge if you don’t include the contract administrator too.

The Playbook wants contracts to

create positive relationships and processes designed to integrate and align multiple parties’ commercial objectives and incentives

As integration, processes, objectives and incentives are all managed by the contract administrator then they need recognition as critical to the aims of the Playbook.

What should you do?

Any contract administrator must understand the processes, terms, requirements and timescales under which they are empowered to act. In a sector with 150 standard form contracts, many of which are so heavily amended as to be essentially bespoke, this is no mean feat.

Contract administrators need to be appointed who are experienced, knowledgeable and trained in applying the spirit and letter of the contract impartially and fairly where required. The new Playbook demands a whole new level of sophistication and only the best will manage these demands, as well as the needs of the parties, successfully.

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