Archaeological contractor procurement

Procuring an archaeological contractor – how to avoid the pitfalls (part 2)

Beware of commissioning on price alone…

Part two of a two part article by Helen Martin-Bacon of Commercial Archaeology.

Read Procuring an archaeological contractor – how to avoid the pitfalls (part 1) »

From the development perspective there is an understandable imperative to control costs at all stages of a proposed project but particularly at application stage when consent for a scheme has not yet been given. 

Therefore, when reviewing tenders from archaeological units the decision to commission is generally price driven with little thought as to what the consequences of this could be.

In other words, commissioning an archaeological unit merely on the basis that they are the cheapest tenderer can have adverse repercussions within the wider context of the project.

There are a number of questions which need to be borne in mind before commissioning an archaeological contractor on the basis of price alone:

  • is the contractor buying the job only to return with hand outstretched for more money at a later date?
  • has the archaeological unit fully understood and allowed for the requirements of the job i.e. the Brief issued by the LPA?
  • has the tender been caveated so that in reality the fixed price may well not be fixed at all?
  • has the tender allowed for all stages of the archaeological project and does it provide a like for like comparison with the other tenders received?

Expense and delay for the developer

The risks from any of the above can be significant, because they can have a knock-on effect for the scheme as a whole. Most often price-driven poor quality work which fails to fulfil the requirements of the LPA can result in serious delays at application stage or at pre-commencement stage both of which can lead to unexpected expense and delay for the developer.

It is advisable, therefore, to regard quotes which are significantly lower than the other quotes received with a degree of suspicion. 

It can help to ensure that quotes are comparable and done on a like for like basis perhaps using a bill of quantities. In addition, making sure that the small print, terms and conditions and notes attached to the tender have been carefully read and understood can provide a more meaningful understanding of the fixed price.

Ideally, engage the services of a consultant to carry out the procurement of archaeological contractors.

A good consultant who understands the intricacies of archaeological procurement and the pitfalls of taking a cheap tender at face value could save those engaged in development at any stage of the planning process from a whole world of unforeseen frustration and cost.

Procuring an archaeological contractor – how to avoid the pitfalls (part 1) »

Further information

Heritage Impact Assessments »

Developers’ guide to archaeological evaluation »

Geophysical survey – techniques used in archaeology »

Trial trenching pros and cons »