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Second opinion is a small price to pay

Currently, there seems to be a belief that there are only two main methods of controlling a contract - the traditional approach, often leading to confrontation and dispute, or the joys of contractor self-certification

Self-certification is academically appealing but, as is evident from Heathrow, can lead to unfortunate problems (NCE 18 February 1999).

For a bridge design it is considered necessary for the design to be checked by an independent firm. Why should this not apply equally to materials.

You may recollect the problems that arose on the reconditioning of RAF Tornados by two different firms. One firm did a conscientious self-certification exercise, whereas the other appeared to believe that the tick in the right place was all important. Despite protests from the RAP, an MOD audit team (which apparently reviewed the paperwork rather than the Tornados) found all ticks to be correct. It was not until the planes were returned to the RAF that the nature of the problem became evident. It was reported that most of the returned Tornados from the second firm were unfit for flight and one or two were not even safe to be towed!

The moral is that it is perfectly possible to have an independent, non- confrontational, effective audit of materials with little, if any, extra cost, and the benefits of a second opinion.

A C F Sandberg OBE (F),

Messrs Sandberg,40 Grosvenor Gardens,

London SW1W OEB

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