'Standard' Contracts Absence Fuels Construction Disputes


Tribune Business Reporter


A BAHAMIAN quantity surveyor yesterday lamented the lack of "standardised" construction and procurement contracts, and the difficulties this causes.

John-Michael Clarke, president and managing director at Veritas Consultants, told the sixth annual Arbitration and Investment Summit: "Currently, in the construction industry in the Bahamas, there is no standardised procurement when it comes to construction contracts.

"What you would find from agency to agency is that public contracts would vary. That means that throughout the Government agencies and private practice, you would come across a lot of variations in construction contracts. That means some would have standard dispute resolution clauses and some will not. You also have private contracts, usually drafted by lawyers, and unfortunately some of them may not know the nuances of the construction industry."

K Peter Turnquest, the Deputy Prime Minister, said last December that enactment of the Public Procurement Bill 2018 was scheduled for early in the New Year. It is designed to strengthen the regulatory and enforcement framework around government procurement. Through the bill, a Public Procurement Department and a Public Procurement Board will be established.

Mr Clarke said litigation remains the primary means of dispute resolution in the Bahamas, adding that this can be time-consuming and costly. "You often find a lot of people leaving $3,000, $5,000 and $10,000 on the table, saying it's not worth it," he said. "There is little or no vehicle to better engage the construction professional in the dispute resolution process."

He added: "Currently the industry is rife with disputes and, as a result, there is a lot of distrust between owners and contractors..... We have to get to the point where we put the statute in place so that when we have these disputes there is a mechanism in place to resolve these disputes."


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