The role of a contract administrator (CA) in construction is critical and of underrated importance, usually tasked in ensuring that the execution of the contract is in compliance with the provisions of the contract, and to quickly solve problems (along with other team members) in line with the contract's mechanisms and requirements.
The exact role of a CA is usually dependent on the type and requirements of the firm (Employer, Engineer or Contractor) and is wide ranging from tender management, contract drafting to claim resolution and taking over.
Since problems are best solved before they grow, and for maximal effectiveness, contract administration should be applied from the very early phases of the project. More often than not, this is not the case and attention is given to the contract administration after a problem has been escalated and is causing a loss.
Many business owners view the contract administration as an expensive luxury that is not affordable. Eng. Mohamed Wael discussed this issue in the Egyptian industry in this interesting article (in Arabic).
In working for contractors, contract administrators are ideally involved during the tender phase where they identify risks in the contract and negotiate clauses in the conditions of contract, leading to a more accurate bid with fewer unknown risks.
During the subsequent phases, there is a common misconception between non-major contractors (that cost millions in losses to projects) that the 'real work is on site'. Contract administrators during the execution phase usually:
- ensure that both parties are performing their obligations under the contract,
- protect their company's rights under the contract such as timely payments, variation orders, timely claim notices, suspension, extension of time, additional costs etc.,
- avoid being bullied/misled by the employer or the engineer into performing extra out-of-scope works without additional time and/or payment,
- draft contractual correspondence,
- ensure that proper substantiation is built for any event that may lead to a later claim or dispute, and
- endeavor in dispute avoidance and resolution.
It is immediately obvious that such role is very critical and important to any project, and I have encountered many cases where contractors have lost a lot of opportunities due to poor knowledge and attention to the contract. Such opportunities would have been taken and other simple risks would have been avoided by a competent contract administrator employed at the start of the project.