Contract administration

Contract administration is the role of the contract administrator; who acts as the interface between the employer and contractor overseeing quality and cost.

The "interface" between you and the builder, overseeing quality and cost.

The role of the Contract Administrator usually follows on the role of lead consultant or project architect but can be a stand-alone appointment if your architect or other consultant does not want to 'oversee" the work on site. The Contract Administrator is the interface between you and the builder. You may wish to retain the architect to make design decisions but prefer a building surveyor or quantity surveyor to manage the contract and to oversee the contractor on site.

The contract administrator is not a clerk of works; it is not a site based position although frequent site visits are required. For large projects it may be appropriate to appoint a clerk of works to make daily visits and to report to the contract administrator. For most projects this level of oversight is not required but weekly visits and stage inspections with regular meetings are required.

The contract administrator fills many roles. Initially this will include setting up the formal contract, issuing documents to the contractor, checking insurances and that the approvals are in place. It will also involve oversight of the contractors programme; this may include ensuring that specific target dates stated in the tender invitation have been factored in. As the work on site progresses the programme will be used to monitor the contractors performance.

Also as the work on site progresses the contractor will request information and decisions on various aspects of the project; it is the Contract Administrator's role to ensure that the information is supplied in a timely manner.

As Contract Administrator we monitor the quality of the work and the contractor's compliance with the drawings and specifications. Frequently builders will propose changing the design or specified materials; this is often done with the best of intentions because they can see a better or more economic way of doing something. It is the Contract Administrator's role to consider the implications of these requests, to decide whether it compromises the integrity of the design, or the approvals or the contract sum. Similarly, as client, you may propose changes, perhaps seeing the reality of the design is not what you envisaged or perhaps you want to enhance the design in some way. It is the Contract Administrator's role to consider the implications of any proposed changes, give you advice and then issue instructions confirming the agreed variations. At all times the cost of any variation must be considered, including the implications on the programme and overall progress of the work.

As the work progresses the contractor will be entitled to interim or progress payments. It is the Contract Administrator's role to keep track of costs and certify the amount to be paid after taking into account the contractor's claim and any certificate issued by the quantity surveyor. On small projects we will fill the quantity surveyor role as well.

Deciding when the work reaches completion is an important stage because there are many consequences that follow on from the decision. These include responsibility for insurance, release of part of the retention, certifying a penultimate payment to the contractor and liability for 'damages" if the work has overrun. There are other issues to be considered at this stage including ensuring that the final inspections and certificates have been issued to satisfy Building Regulations and CDM Regulations. Some funding arrangements and agreements for a lease are tied to the completion date and these often require the Contract Administrator to follow different procedures at completion than are normal under the building contract; the Contract Administrator has to be aware of these differences to ensure that neither the building contract or the other contracts are compromised.

After completion the Contract Administrator's duties do not end. Firstly the contractor's final account has to be agreed; then there is a 'rectification period" (or 'defects liability period') to pass and an inspection to be made. Depending on the nature of the work and wording of the contract this may be 3 to 24 months after completion; in some cases parts of the work such as the electrical installation may have a longer period. The Contract Administrator then inspects to determine whether any defects, shrinkages or other faults that develop in the work are due to materials or workmanship undertaken by the contractor not conforming to the contract requirements. The contractor then has the opportunity to remedy the matters after which the Contract Administrator inspects again and if satisfied certifies that the defects have been made good. At this point the Contract Administrator certifies the final payment.

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