Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose?
In January last year, I took a look at the Adjudication Society’s 18th annual report into the development of adjudication.
The world was turned upside down shortly afterwards by COVID-19 and it seems much longer than a year ago! For one thing I wrote that article sitting in my lovely office, surrounded by my lovely work colleagues, now I am at home, with only my lovely family and my lovely dog and Zoom for company.
Reassuringly, however, the world of adjudication continues, pretty much unchanged. Because it is an inherently flexible system, the switch to adjudicating in a Covid world has made little difference. The move away from paper bundles has accelerated, and everything has moved to electronic communication. Care has had to be taken when arranging site visits. I have had to draft a whole new set of rules for online Zoom meetings. But the basic procedures have remained the same.
The report covers May 2019 to April 2020, and so does only look at the first two months of the pandemic. It is hard to say therefore what the impact of the pandemic will be, and next year’s report will certainly be interesting reading. Here at Stevens & Bolton we have seen a rise in the number of adjudications since the start of the year, although it is difficult at the moment to assess whether this is just the usual January bounce or a reflection of more disputes than usual working their way to fruition. In 2020, the most popular month for adjudicating was March.
So what did the report find?
Like last year, here are some of the facts and figures.
0 – the effect of Brexit. So far. The Brexit deal has only recently been concluded, and there have been reports for some months of shortages in materials and labour and price increases. Unpicking this from the impact of the pandemic though is going to be impossible, and the impact of Brexit, if any, may not become clear for many months.
2% - the percentage increase in the number of adjudications for 2019/2020 over 2018/2019. The previous two years saw steeper increases, which suggests that the rate of increase may be slowing down. Also, the percentage of adjudicators who are construction consultants.
5 – the number of referrals in April using the new RICS low value adjudication service, launched on 1 April. Adjudication can be an expensive outing and the new low value procedures are very welcome, it will interesting to find out next year how many times they have been used.
8% - the percentage of adjudicators who are architects.
10% - the percentage of adjudicators who are civil engineers.
22 – the number of complaints about adjudicators, with one upheld. Because complaints are confidential, and the ANBs only supply limited information, it is difficult to ascertain trends here, but when information is provided, complaints generally relate to jurisdictional challenges and fees. The report suggests that the large percentage of unsuccessful complaints may be because the complainants may not understand that they cannot complain about the result, but only about the adjudicator’s approach.
35% - the percentage of adjudicators who are quantity surveyors.
43% - the percentage of adjudicators who are lawyers, the top percentage. The report suggests that the percentage of lawyer adjudicators is now levelling out, but the top two disciplines remain lawyers and quantity surveyors. If you have a dispute where it would be helpful for the adjudicator to have technical expertise in a particular field, for example architecture or engineering, you should consider using a specialist nominating body.
90% - the number of referrals to adjudication made through an ANB.
162 - average number of referrals per month. Between May 2019 and April 2020, the most popular month to adjudicate was March, and the least popular was December.
190 – the report’s estimate of the number of practising adjudicators in the UK.
£250 – the most common nominating fee.
772 – the number of adjudicators registered with ANBs (most register with, on average, 4 ANBs). This is an increase from last year, when there were 728. The largest increase in adjudicators was with UK Adjudicators and TECBAR.
The pandemic has placed big strains upon the economy and the construction industry and it’s not over yet. Anecdotally, adjudication has been responding well to the challenges, adapting procedurally to the difficulties posed by the various lockdowns, and numbers of adjudication referrals may be rising. This report covers only the first couple of months of the pandemic in the UK. The true impact will only be revealed in the next two annual reports.