One aspect of the Office of Fair Trading’s cover-pricing inquiry that seems to have been missed is the effect of clients and their professional advisers

The Code of Procedure for Selective Tendering recommends that in deciding tender lists, clients and their advisers should look for contractors appropriate for the job. They should then ask them, in advance of sending out the documents, if they are willing to tender and assure them that if they decline to bid for the job, there will be no prejudice against them from either the client or its professionals and they will still be considered for other work in the future. They should also mean this.

It is inevitable, particularly with small firms, that there will be times when the estimating department or contract management or both will be overloaded. If there is a concern about future prejudice, it is easy to see why covers are taken.

If every contractor approached turned a job down or put in a cover price, the client and its advisers ought to ask themselves why that was, and not rail against the perfidy of contractors. Once they understand the reason they can address the problem or find a different and appropriate way of obtaining their objective.

The professionals in the industry need to be more active to prevent prejudice and to create confidence among the contractors with whom they deal; they could start by adhering more strictly to existing codes. Otherwise there will be fewer people to do the work and their clients will end up paying more for the job when they eventually find someone willing and able to do it!

Janet Wood