Construction costs are escalating. Under existing contracts, an employer will not want to pay more for the works. But forcing a contractor to perform works that are unprofitable or causing a massive loss is unlikely to be in the best interests of the project. It may result in the insolvency of the contractor forcing the employer to abandon the contract or re-let it, probably at a premium. Is a mechanism for cost adjustment, such as FIDIC 1999 Sub-Clause 13.8 [Adjustments for Changes in Costs], an answer?
Could provisions in FIDIC contracts giving relief for ‘Force Majeure’ or ‘Exceptional Events’ provide relief to contractors suffering as a result of price escalation? It is well documented that construction and engineering projects around the globe are being affected by extreme and sometimes unprecedented price escalation. This is for many reasons including the Covid-19 pandemic and the Russo-Ukrainian conflict.
It has been suggested that FIDIC’s new Emerald Book may be “a contractors’ charter for riches”. 1 This article examines whether this new form of contract for underground works by FIDIC and the International Tunnelling and Underground Space Association is too contractor-biased or whether it provides a sensible and pragmatic risk allocation process, in an area of construction and engineering which is well known for claims. If more risks are placed on the Employer in this form of contract, what are the benefits of the contract compared to, for example, an unamended FIDIC Yellow Book?
Much has already been written concerning the new FIDIC forms of contract published in December 2017. They are approximately 50 % longer and sought to set out the various procedure in much greater detail with the object of both encouraging good practice and reducing the scope for disputes. Numerous minor amendments have also been made. The purpose of this article is to look in more detail at the provisions dealing with Variations, these being amongst the most frequently scrutinised in practice.
Clause 14 deals with all aspects of payment. It also deals with the Statement at Completion, the Final Payment Certificate, Discharge and Cessation of the Employer’s Liability. The Clause provides that this is a re-measurement contract and that the quantities stated in the Bill of Quantities are estimated. There is provision for an advance payment to be made to the Contract. Applications for Interim Payment Certificates are made monthly and these must be supported by documents and a report on progress. Unless the amount assessed is less than the minimum amount set out in the Appendix to Tender, the Engineer has 28 days to issue an Interim Payment Certificate, which states the amount the Engineer fairly determines to be due. The Employer thereafter has an obligation to pay the amount certified, in the currencies named in the Appendix to Tender. In the event that payment is not received the Contractor can claim financing charges compounded monthly. Fifty per cent of the retention monies are paid when the Taking-Over Certificate is issued. Where there are Sections then a proportion is paid. The balance of retention is paid on the expiry of the latest Defects Notification Period or, where there are Sections, a proportion at the expiry of the Defects Notification Period for that Section. Within 84 days of receiving the Taking-Over Certificate the Contractor submits a Statement at Completion. This must include an estimate of all sums which the Contractor considers due. Within 56 days of receiving a Performance Certificate, the Contractor submits a Final Statement. The Contractor must also submit with the Final Statement a written discharge which confirms that the total of the Final Statement represents full and final settlement of all moneys due. The Engineer then issues to the Employer a Final Payment Certificate. The Contract states that the Employer shall have no liability to the Contractor except to the extent that the Contractor has included an amount expressly for that matter in the Final Statement and also the Statement at Completion.
Sub-Clause 13.1 deals with the right of the Engineer to vary the Contract. This right can be exercised at any time up to the issue of the Taking-Over Certificate. Sub-Clause 13.2 deals with value engineering and permits the Contractor to propose a change which will benefit the Employer. The proposal is prepared at the cost of the Contractor, who designs the change. Sub-Clause 13.3 deals with the procedure prior to the Engineer instructing a variation. The Engineer may request a proposal from the Contractor. However, while the Contractor is preparing the proposal it must proceed with the works. Sub-Clause 13.4 deals with payment in applicable currencies. Sub-Clause 13.5 deals with Provisional Sums and ought to be read with Sub-Clause 22.214.171.124 which defines Provisional Sum as follows:- “a sum (if any) which is specified in the Contract as a provisional sum, for the execution of any part of the Works or for the supply of Plant, Materials or services under Sub-Clause 13.5 [Provisional Sums].” The Provisional Sum can only be used where there is an Engineer’s instruction and the Contractor receives payment for only the work done to which the Provisional Sum relates. Sub-Clause 13.6 deals with daywork. This is where work of a minor or incidental nature is to be carried out. The work is then valued in accordance with the Daywork Schedule in the Contract or if there is no Daywork Schedule then the alternative method of payment as prescribed in the Contract. Sub-Clause 13.7 deals with the Cost arising from changes in the Laws of the Country which affect the Contractor in performance of his obligations under the Contract. Where the Contractor suffers delay or additional Cost then it must give notice under Sub-Clause 20.1 of the Contract. Sub-Clause 13.8 deals with adjustments for changes in cost. This Sub-Clause only applies where the “table of adjustment data” included in the Appendix to Tender has been completed. If the Sub-Clause does apply then the amounts payable to the Contractor for rises and fall in the cost of the Works are adjusted by a formula.
Clause 1 sets out many of the boilerplate clauses within the Contract and provides a number of definitions which are used thereafter. The Clause has been substantially changed from the Red Book 4th edn with a raft of new clauses added. Sub-Clause 1.3 deals with communications and states that approvals, certificates, consents and determinations shall not be unreasonable withheld or delayed. The assignment provisions in Sub-Clause 1.7 have now changed so that restriction on assignment applies to both the Contractor and Employer. Delayed Drawings and Instructions is dealt with at Sub-Clause 1.9. This was previously dealt with at Clause 6.4 of the Red Book 4th edn and it is unclear why such an important provision has now been rolled up in the General Provisions clause.