Wednesday, 30 November 2016

PADDED B.O.Q: The Highest Bid May Not Necesarily Be The Best - Engr. Osaz’ ENOBAKHARE

Some contractors are experts in the art of padding project cost estimates or priced bill of quantities to the detriment of their unsuspecting clients in the same way the trending subject of national discourse bordering on the ‘padded budget’. Padding an estimate even for a non-statutory project to satisfy whatever selfish aim is not only immoral but is treated in some climes as ‘criminal’. Having studied a couple of priced bills for construction projects in the past few months, I realized that ‘B.O.Q padding has got an old face’ and has some professional clients also in its victims’ list.

Let me take you through some of the tricks that unscrupulous contractors and their quantity surveyors (QS) use to defraud private project owners so you can detect them; 

1They spike up provisional sums. Provisional sum is an amount allocated to a specialized service for which details are not yet available as at the time of tender. Allow for the provisional sum of ‘so so amount’ to be used for ‘so so service’ or to be paid to ‘so so expert’ for ‘so so service’. Traditionally it doesn’t have any rate or unit attached to it and so it may be very difficult to measure the extent of work to be done not to talk of the most reasonable amount to pay for such services but it is important that you ask your contractor/QS to furnish you with some details on the provisional sum, he may become jittery and then you can beat it down. If a provisional sum is to be made for fittings and fixtures for example, you have the right to know what kind of fittings and fixtures is to be installed and how much they cost. Some bills have provisional sums in tens of millions for works that can be done with a little over a Million Naira.

2 They add frivolous items like 'Special' Professional fees. Sometimes one wonders why professional fees should be charged separately in a bill where the contractor’s overheads and profit have already been computed into all the rates. What then is the rationale behind such item, If not for padding sake? Professional fees are only charged separately as an item if it has not been computed into the rates. Once you spot out such item in your bill, do not hesitate to ask questions.

3They keep reasonable rates but increase the quantities. Hardly is there a project owner who would go take a ground measurement by him/herself or measure quantities from a drawing for a new project because it’s a different ball game altogether as it requires some special skills hence undue advantage is often taken in this regard. The idea is to make the rates appear very normal so that much attention is not given to the quantities or volume of the items of work. You see quantities like 685sqM for floor tiles of a bungalow to be built on half-plot when the entire floor size of the land is below 350sqM. It really doesn’t make sense. When it is multiplied by the rate it increases the final amount. So take your time to study the quantities too as much as you would do with the rates and amount. If you discover anything suspicious, draw the estimator’s attention to it.

4 They repeat the same item using several titles/descriptions. Haven’t you seen two separate provisions for concrete/reinforcement in column and concrete/reinforcement in pillar in the same bill? One wonders what the difference is between 'pillar' and 'column'. Sometimes you see separate provisions for wall rendering and plastering when they are both nearest in meaning. Some insert separate provisions for flooring and screeded bed to receive tiles and so on.

5 They do guess estimate.  This is common in practice. They insert figures into the bill by relying on guess work and unfounded assumptions rather than current market realities just to arrive at a figure that they already have in mind. There have been reports that some of them use fetish means to sway/cajole their victims. On a recent project, a piling work that cost only about 8.8 Million Naira (overhead and profit inclusive) to complete was quoted by another contractor at a whooping 17 Million Naira. If the project owner had not contacted me on time, he would have donated 8.2 Million Naira free money to a ‘good guesser’.

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