Unfortunately, under the FIDIC Red and Yellow Books 1999, the right of an Employer to set off from an amount already certified in a Payment Certificate but unpaid is inexplicit. Once the Employer has a Sub-Clause 3.5 determination, it may ask the Engineer to deduct the amount determined from the next Payment Certificate. This is clear. But rather than rely on the Engineer, can the Employer instead, itself, deduct by way of set off from an amount already certified in a Payment Certificate but unpaid? This is not clear.
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.
Although Clause 17 is titled ‘Risk and Responsibility’ it also sets out other provisions relating to indemnities, limitation of liability and, unusually, the specific topic of intellectual and industrial property rights. The clause provides that the Contractor assumes responsibility and bears the risk for the care of the works during execution and for remedying any defects during the Defects Notification Period. Risk transfers to the Employer on issue of the Taking–Over Certificate to the extent of works defined as being completed. Generally, in construction contracts ‘risk’ is understood to mean an event or circumstance which causes delay, loss or damage to the Works. A risk can be said to be Employer caused, Contractor caused or neutral. The purpose of risk allocation is to determine which party bears the risk for such events. The Contractor may be required to remediate the damage at his own cost or the Employer may be required to pay for the damaged works. It has been stated that the “FIDIC standard forms are generally recognised as being well balanced because both parties bear parts of the risks arising from the project.”
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.
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.
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 19 deals with two distinct events: (1) Force Majeure; and (2) release from performance under the law. Force Majeure is often narrowly defined under the laws of many countries; however, within the FIDIC 1999 forms of contract it has a much broader meaning. The terminology used by FIDIC has therefore sometimes been criticized as being misleading.
Click through to read Corbett & Co.'s helpful commentary on FIDIC 1999 book Clause 15
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.
Rumour reaches us that the Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs) behind the Pink Book, FIDIC’s harmonised version of the 1999 Red Book, will discontinue the experiment. Should we be sorry to see the back of the Pink Book? We think not.
Read the full article here.
There is a substantial difference between the payment provisions of the FIDIC 1999 Red and Yellow Books compared with the Silver Book. This article explores how a court in Queensland (Australia) has dealt with the Silver Book’s provision. Contractors have good cause to be wary.