If contractors can pass on their subcontractors' costs to the client, they probably will, won't they? Clients suspect this might be true, but fortunately Rudi can set their minds at rest …
It became a truism among clients using management contracts in the 1980s that main contractors, when they became managers of subcontractors under contracts where all subcontract cost was reimburseable, had a tendency to go "soft". They suddenly became very generous to the subcontracting industry at their client's expense.

In many ways, the dilution of the overt adversarialism in main contractor/ subcontractor relationships was to be welcomed. But, to the extent that this resulted in unwarranted costs to them, it was viewed by the mass of clients with suspicion.

The suspicion lingers, despite the decline in management contracting, under all procurement routes where contractors are responsible for the administration of contracts under which the client ultimately foots the bill. But is it just another part of the mythology surrounding procurement, or is this a concern supported by experience? Different clients obviously expect their managers to adopt different approaches: some prefer a "hard man"; others prefer a more professional management style.

Most, I think, would encourage and promote a more open, honest and fair approach to contractor/subcontractor commercial relationships. But not if this results in the project costing more than is contractually warranted.

There is continuing suspicion that managers will try to make their lives easier by wrapping up the final accounts quickly and moving on to the next job.

There may also be a powerful commercial incentive to do this if the manager's staff costs are fixed, regardless of how long he remains involved with the project. This may mean he reduces or abandons a contentious contracharge or acknowledges a loss and/or expense claim in dubious circumstances.

It may mean that he advocates a "global" settlement in order to secure early agreement, without a proper valuation of the account. In extreme cases, this strategy carries major risks for the manager – he could find himself on the receiving end of proceedings initiated by the client. But is this a more subtle problem on many projects? Who better to comment than the subcontracting industry, which should be able to make an objective assessment of the different approaches of contractors under different procurement routes?