Perhaps only a legal man could be so outrageous in his opinion but at the same time completely miss the essence of the NEC (Ian Yule, 18 November).
The whole ethos of the contract is based upon communication, collaboration and co-operation centred on timely and effective good management from all parties, including the project manager.
To suggest, as Yule does, that the contract is somehow flawed because of the repercussions should the project manager fail to keep on top of his job and deal with compensation events in timely fashion, is ludicrous. The failure of the project manager to perform would be a problem for the employer whatever the form of contract and I cannot believe that in 21st-century construction this is even tacitly acceptable – I write as a former client of more than 30 years and one of the first users of the NEC form.
Similarly, Yule’s concerns regarding key dates and the potential impact of employer interference is not shatteringly new. Changes, whether in time, duration, access or modifications to the works can lead to legitimate compensation events, as would be the case with variations for any other contract. It is worth pointing out that not all compensation events result in additional time or money for the contractor.
Again with regard to target costs, the employer can choose when setting up the contract how and when it will pay the contractor. If this improves the contractor’s cash flow, then so what, as long as the employer is happy with the arrangement and doesn’t pay more than it should overall in the final account.
With regard to wariness, employers are generally more savvy than Yule would have us believe and yes, most are fully informed and professional in their appointments of both consultants and contractors.
No contract is perfect, but the NEC must be doing something right. Since its launch some 12 years ago, NEC one, two and three have proved popular and effective in the construction industry. It is now the dominant contract form in the civils infrastructure, transportation and utilities markets and it demands the discipline and application of effective management. Moreover, given the extent of its usage it has been relatively free from litigation, so maybe the issue is more about teamwork, resolution and delivery rather than the confrontation and semantics of legal interpretations.
David Williams, non-executive chairman, Needlemans