A Note on the Qatar Situation

Qatar has been in the news a lot recently, particularly with regard to the 2022 World Cup, but the current situation in the country also gives cause for concern with regard to the huge amount of construction work that is being undertaken and from what I hear on the grapevine, the way that Contractors are being dealt with by employers and consultants.

In a busy market with deadlines to be met and finite resources, projects have been commenced with ill-advised procurement strategies that have resulted in designs not been well advanced and contracts being poorly drafted. In such a situation, it is inevitable that a contractor will encounter many situations for which claims will need to be submitted if he is to obtain his contractual rights and maintain his bottom line. The employer and consultants’ response is fairly typical in such a situation and is either to ignore the claims or to reject them. This of course leads to a situation whereby the parties are soon at loggerheads and disputes soon arise to the detriment of the project. To add fuel to the fire, there seems to have been little attempt to introduce alternative dispute resolution into the contracts, so such disputes may only be settled by costly and time-consuming arbitration.

So, what can those of us that deal with construction claims do to help to alleviate a situation where claims arise?

The answer, in my opinion, is that we can do quite a lot.

If we are working on the employer’s side we should be able to identify situations that may result in a claim being submitted by the contractor and advise our teams on steps to mitigate the situation, or to make provisions within the budget for such a contingency.

If we are contractors we should consider each potential claim, its strength, its value, the contractual entitlement and its chances of success. Having done this, a decision should be taken as to whether to pursue the matter or not. Serious consideration should be given to the tactic of submitting spurious claims, or claims to which there is doubtful entitlement, in the hope that they will pass scrutiny. Mostly, they do not.

When a justifiable claim situation arises, the claim must be prepared and submitted in a professional manner, so that it may be properly understood and in a way that it deals with all of the essential elements to prove that it is justified. If a claim fails to do this, you are inviting either total rejection, or at best the matter will take additional time and effort to reach resolution.

When a claim is received, those responsible for assessing it should not ignore it – it will not go away and it needs to be addressed within a reasonable time frame. The response document, whether rejecting the claim, approving it in full or awarding the full amount, should be well set out, well argued and should deal with all the essential elements of a good claim response, even if the claim itself does not. A good response or determination will convince the contractor and the employer that the award is just and should convince either party that, if they elevate it to a dispute, then they will lose when the dispute is examined.

Finally, a claims practitioner’s job on either side of the fence is to attempt to reach the resolution of claims and not to prolong matters, or to allow them to be elevated to disputes. We need to be professional at all times and to ensure that we do our very best in everything that we do, in order to achieve these goals.