In all construction contracts, one of the central principles is the Employer’s obligation to pay the contract price. The Contractor will be wary about the Employer’s financial standing and ability to pay and concerned to ensure that payments are made on time and that effective remedies are available in case of late or non-payment. The FIDIC standard forms of contract contain provisions dealing with these aspects.
Clause 8 contains all the fundamental provisions relating to the start of the Works, the Time for Completion, delays and the entitlement of the Contractor to an extension of time and of the Employer to delay damages, and finally the circumstances in which a suspension of the Works can occur and the implications for the Parties.
Clause 6 deals with Staff and Labour. These provisions need to be read with the applicable laws where the works are being carried out or the relevant employment law if different. Sub-Clause 6.1 commits the Contractor (unless otherwise specified) to pay for his staff and their housing feeding and transport. Sub-Clause 6.2 requires the Contractor not to pay lower wages or give lower conditions than those generally applicable locally. Sub-Clause 6.3 forbids the Contractor from attempting to recruit from the Employer’s Personnel. Sub-Clause 6.4 requires the Contractor to abide by labour laws and to require his staff to obey the law generally. Sub-Clause 6.5 forbids work on locally recognised rest days or outside the working hours set out in the Appendix to Tender, unless stated in the Contract or agreed to by the Engineer or essential for the protection of life or property or for safety reasons. Sub-Clause 6.6 requires the Contractor to provide and maintain all necessary accommodation for its personnel and for the Employer’s personnel to the extent stated in the Specification. It is forbidden from permitting its own Personnel from living within the structures forming part of the Permanent Works. Sub-Clause 6.7 requires the Contractor to maintain the health and safety of its personnel and maintain proper medical facilities for its own personnel and for any Employer Personnel accommodated. It is required to appoint an accident prevention officer. It is required to notify the Employer of any accidents and maintain records. Sub-Clause 6.8 requires the Contractor to provide all necessary superintendence by a sufficient number of properly qualified people with adequate knowledge of the defined language of communications. Sub-Clause 6.9 requires the Contractor to ensure that its personnel are properly qualified, skilled and experienced. The Employer may require the Contractor to remove any person employed on the Site or the Works who commits misconduct, is incompetent or negligent, fails to perform in accordance with any provision of the Contract or persists in any conduct prejudicial to health, safety or the environment. If a person is removed the Contractor will have to replace him. Sub-Clause 6.10 requires the Contractor to submit to the Engineer details showing personnel and equipment on Site. This is required each month and must be in a form approved by the Engineer. Sub-Clause 6.11 requires the Contractor to take reasonable precautions to prevent disorderly conduct by Contractor’s Personnel and to preserve the peace and protection or nearby persons and property.
Much has been said about the new Red, Yellow and Silver Books 2nd Editions launched by FIDIC in December last year. The most obvious comment has been about their size, almost 50,000 words, which is some 60% longer than the 1999 forms. Although the 1999 forms were not perfect, most regular users seem to be agreed that they did not need 20,000 words to fix the issues. This consensus led this author to attempt to cherry-pick the good bits from the 2017 forms and to propose amendments to add the good ideas to the 1999 forms. The amendments apply to all three forms unless it is indicated otherwise.
FIDIC’s 2017 editions introduced a new Claims management system in clause 20 that channels Claims through two very different procedures. One of them is very simple and involves almost no risk whereas the other will require investment of significant project resources, will take the parties a considerable amount of time to resolve and carries fatal consequences if not followed properly. It has therefore become a priority for anyone handling this Claims management system to understand how clause 20.1 sorts the different types of Claims and to recognise that the classification scheme is not as straightforward as the wording of the Contract suggests, as explored in this article.
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.
Clause 3 deals with the duties and obligations of the Engineer and his assistants. Sub-Clause 3.1 deals with the role and duties of the Engineer. The Engineer is deemed to act for the Employer. The Engineer has no authority to relieve the Contractor of his duties, obligations or responsibilities under the Contract; nor can the Engineer amend the Contract. Under Sub-Clause 3.2 the Engineer can delegate authority to any assistants; however, the Engineer cannot delegate the responsibility to make Determinations. Under Sub-Clause 3.3 the Engineer may issue instructions or modified Drawings at any time, which are necessary for the execution of the Works. If the instruction constitutes a Variation, then it is dealt with under Clause 13 [Variations and Adjustments]. The Contractor is required to comply with any instruction given by the Engineer or delegated assistant. Sub-Clause 3.4 deals with the replacement of the Engineer. The Employer must not replace the Engineer with someone against whom the Contractor raises reasonable objection. Sub-Clause 3.5 deals with Determinations. When making a Determination the Engineer should consult with each of the Parties and, if agreement cannot be reached, make a fair determination in accordance with the Contract, taking due regard of all relevant circumstances. Both Parties are required to give effect to any Determination unless, or until, it is revised under Sub-Clause 20.1 [Claims, Disputes and Arbitration].
Corbett & Co. has published its selection of the best bits of the FIDIC 2017 2nd Editions adapted for use with the 1999 forms. With many people put off by the 50,000+ words of the new editions, the FIDIC 1999 Upgrade will permit users to benefit from FIDIC’s new ideas and improvements.
The main changes in Clause 16 are the new grounds for suspension and termination: Non-compliance with a final and binding Engineer’s Determination and binding or final and binding DAAB decision, to the extent that such failure constitutes a “material breach” of the Employer’s obligations under the Contract. (Sub-Clauses 16.1(d) and 16.2.1(d)). What constitutes a “material breach” is likely to be the subject of many disputes (see the commentary on Clause 15). Non-receipt of a Notice of the Commencement Date under Sub-Clause 8.1 [Commencement of Works] within 84 days after receiving the Letter of Acceptance. (Sub-Clauses 16.2.1(f)). This is development to ground (h) in the FIDIC Pink (MDB) Book which states: “the Contractor does not receive the Engineer’s instructions recording the agreement of both Parties on the fulfilment of the conditions for the Commencement of the Works under Sub-Clause 8.1 [Commencement of Works]”. It protects the Contractor from the financial consequences of fluctuations in the rates and prices during an extended delay to the start of the Works, although the Contractor ould be entitled to damages for breach of contract in any event. More importantly, it gives the Contractor loss of profit on the entire project. Engagement in corrupt, fraudulent, collusive or coercive practice at any time in relation to the Works or to the Contract. (Sub-Clauses 16.2.1(j).) This introduces parity between the Employer and Contractor. The wording is identical to that under Sub-Clause 15.2.1(h). In the FIDIC 1999 editions, the Employer was entitled to terminate if the Contractor gave or offered an inducement or reward etc. but there was no recipricol arrangement.
Clause 14 - Contract Price and Payment by George Rosenberg.
Corbett & Co. has devised a helpful commentary on FIDIC 1999 books Clause 2. Clause 2 sets out certain obligations which are imposed on the Employer; however, this is by no means all the Employer’s obligations. The obligation to pay the Contractor, for example, is found in Sub-Clause 14.7 and the obligation to Take-Over the Works is found at Sub-Clause 10.1. The first obligation imposed on the Employer under this Clause is to give to the Contractor a right of access. Sub-Clause 2.1 needs to be read alongside Sub-Clauses 2.3 and 4.6, which make it clear that possession of the Site need not be exclusive. Sub-Clause 2.2 imposes on the Employer an obligation to assist the Contractor when requested to obtain permits, licences or approvals required by the laws of the Country. The obligation to reasonably assist is not an absolute obligation and generally will not mean the Employer will have to expend money on fulfilling the obligation. Sub-Clause 2.3 imposes on the Employer an obligation similar to that imposed on the Contractor under Sub-Clause 4.6. The Employer is responsible for any failure by its personnel to co-operate with the Contractor or to comply with safety regulations, take care of persons on Site, make sure the Site is reasonably free from unnecessary obstructions, and protect the environment. Sub-Clause 2.4 imposes on the Employer an obligation to show that financial arrangements have been made and are in place to enable it to pay the Contract Price. Sub-Clause 2.5 deals with the Employer’s Claims and requires that the Employer give notice and particulars of its claim before the Engineer makes a Determination under Sub-Clause 3.5. The Employer cannot set-off any claims it may have against the Contractor unless it complies with this Sub-Clause.
What relief does FIDIC provide when bank accounts are frozen as a result of war, hostilities, rebellion, terrorism etc.? Maybe not as much as you think. Tensions in Africa and the Middle East have seen the implementation of numerous international financial sanctions. While these sanction regimes vary in execution and enforcement they often freeze assets and prevent financial transactions. These restrictions may impact on the Employer’s performance of its payment obligations under the Contract. This can have serious consequences where the Contractor is entitled to suspend or terminate on notice for non-payment. Many parties automatically assume that financial sanctions will be recognised as force majeure. However, this may not be the case.
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