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ICE should promote good practice

Letters

When advisory (not mandatory) fee scales for consulting engineers were banned in 1986 the consequences were obvious to many of us. In the absence of any positive replacement designed to assure value for money for the client, crude commercial standards would prevail.

Experience around the world has shown that, where any element of price is included among the criteria for appointment, price, not requiring special skills in its evaluation, prevails over other important but subjective aspects.

The first professional appointment for any project is critical in determining the strategy and ethos of the project. How best to organise the project in a co-operative manner, how to control uncertainty and allocate residual risks, exploit opportunities for innovation, are too easily compromised.

Over the years, without any evident success, I have urged the Institution to promote a campaign for good practice in the structure of project management. The result is that the Engineer is now appointed by price to a limited brief - and even reduced to the term 'design contractor' and management has been reduced to administration and separated from engineering - a practice encouraged by the New Engineering Contract.

Of course some enlightened employers are aware that their interests are well served by the quality of their advisers, and are not prevented by regulation or procedures from making appointments. There are schemes for providing advice in such respects.

But where are the Institution's initiatives in these and comparable directions?

Alan Muir Wood (F), Frankland Bere Court Road, Pangbourne, Berkshire RG8 8JY

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