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Periods for response in NEC contracts – CECA Bulletin 34

Good communication flow, transparency and auditability should be key features when administering any construction contract. NEC4 deliberately puts processes in place during the life of the project to ensure good practice project management. Adhering to the contractual processes and having a full audit trail of what was issued, when, and what the response was, should be key for both Parties. It is strongly advised that for any project this should be managed through a cloud-based system (which is discussed in detail in previous CECA bulletin 12), to help both Parties follow the correct contractual processes and response times. Where the Scope states the use of such a communication system, clause 13.2 makes it clear that the communication only takes effect when it is communicated through that tool. 

This bulletin identifies the key processes within the Engineering and Construction Contract (ECC), Engineering and Construction Subcontract (ECS) and Professional Services Contract (PSC). The table refers to Party A and Party B, which for each contract the Parties would be as follows:

ECC – Party A: Client/Project Manager, Party B: Contractor

ECS – Party A: Contractor, Party B: Subcontractor

PSC – Party A: Client/Service Manager, Party B: Consultant

The table included below lists the communications that could be issued, and the response times within which they should be responded to. Responses can not be a “holding response”, i.e., a response to a compensation event quotation must be either acceptance or non-acceptance within two weeks, not a response within two weeks to state “we will get back to you in due course”. Response times can be extended on a case-by-case basis but only by agreement with both Parties (i.e., not Party A simply telling Party B they will take longer).

It is also important to remember that the response times are the longest time that should be taken. They should not intentionally be responded to at the latest possible time that the contract allows. For a well-run, efficient project, the Parties should try to respond to each other well inside the stated contractual timescales.  Where there is no specific timescale stated to respond for a particular type of communication, the response period will default to the “period for reply”, which is specific and identified for a project in Contract Data Part 1. Where something is issued for acceptance and the response is non-acceptance, clause 13.4 makes it clear that Party A has to state the reasons why they are not accepting in sufficient detail that allows Party B to correct the submission and be able to resubmit.

Unless otherwise stated the documents listed in the table will be issued by Party B and need to be responded to within the stated timescale by Party A.

Summary: Timescales need to be adhered to and could lead to a compensation event if not responded to on time. A number of specific timescales are stated in the contract, and all other communications that require a response will default to the “period for reply” to ensure every communication is responded to.