My name is David Arneil and I work for Capita Beard Dove, a company that specialises in providing professional construction cost management and project management services from our office in Bratislava. Each month I will attempt to provide some enlightening insight into the glamorous world of the construction industry from the point of view of an expatriate PQS (Professional Quantity Surveyor) working in the region.
One of the important roles of the quantity surveyor is to work at all stages of the construction process to avoid or resolve contractual problems and disputes. Disputes can and do arise for all kinds of reasons. Having worked in the construction industry for some 12 years now, I have found that one of the most frequent causes of contractual problems (i.e. claims arbitration or delays) is the unco-ordinated way in which documentation is produced whether by the architect, engineer or indeed the cost manager /quantity surveyor.
If the design team has done a good job, there will be clear and coordinated documentation for the project defining the design, specification and standards required. But all too often in the rush to produce tender documentation, in time to meet tight procurement programmes or as a result of working within a low fee bid, the information provided by the design team is incomplete or conflicting. This leaves the contractor to make his best guess about what the client wants. If his guess proves correct then there's no problem (unless, of course, a competitor wins the job after making a bad guess resulting in a lower price).
Often, however, such errors in the project documents remain undiscovered until the time comes to carry out the work on site, and that's when the arguments start.
It seems that the traditional procurement processes in the Slovak Republic and other eastern Europe countries, combined with the current fiercely competitive local market, means that that local contractors are at present less claims-conscious than their counterparts in western countries.
The question is how long this attitude will last. When western investors enter the market, they sometimes bring with them complex contracts drafted to protect against contractors' claims. In the future, local contractors may find themselves having to fight harder within the terms of such contracts to compensate for discrepancies in the project documentation.
David Arneil is Associate Director of Cost Management at Capita Beard Dove. His column appears monthly. Send comments or questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.