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Clients accused of exploiting partnering to avoid payment

MAUNSELL CHIEF executive Peter Head this week claimed that partnering is being exploited by clients to avoid payment.

He told NCE that UK civil engineering clients were using partnering as a smokescreen for 'onerous' design and build and private finance contracts.

The problem was particularly bad in the road and rail sectors, added Head.

Poor payment by clients, he said, had forced Maunsell to abandon its good payment policy. 'We are only paying when we are able, ' said Head. 'That usually means at the last moment.'

He claimed that one reason behind the recent merger with AeCOM was that it would give the consultant 'deeper pockets' and an ability to manage cash flow better (NCE 23 March).

Head said: 'Contracts should be used to underpin the partnering concept by including proper incentives to work towards best outcomes for all parties. Unless those at the top of the supply chains realise that treating suppliers well will boost their profits, then we have little prospect of change.'

Head added that the payment problem had deteriorated badly despite legislation such as the Late Payment of Commercial Debts Act and Construction Act .

He said: 'At the moment everyone is blaming everyone else for non-payment, which hides the reality that much of it is poor management practice throughout the supply chain. There is no doubt that margins could be improved quickly if this problem was put right.'

He called on clients to adopt 'true partnering' in which payment issues were discussed openly and urged them to sign up to the Better Payment Practice Campaign. None of the 1,200 firms already signed up are construction companies.

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