Standards in contracts
Particular work standards and essential characteristics which the contractor has to fulfil.
A specification of standards refers to the exact statement of the particular needs to be satisfied, or essential characteristics that a contracting body requires (in a good, material, method, process, service, system, or work) and which a contractor must deliver. Specifications are usually written in a manner that enables both parties (and/or an independent certifier) to measure the degree of conformance.1
When a project owner is contracting to a company or organisation, the responsibility lies with the project owner to specify standards in the contract. When the contract is in place, the specification becomes an essential contract management document, which is used to ensure that the chosen contractor provides what has been agreed.
PURPOSE & LINK TO INTEGRITY
When a bidder has been awarded a contract it has to fulfil the standards as specified in the contract. Specified standards ensure transparency and help avoiding misunderstandings and legal sanctions (see also Compliance management). Well-prepared specifications assist contractors to understand tenders, to respond effectively and to carry out their contractual obligations.
The specification of standards in contracts helps to foster integrity , because the contract is binding and can be referenced to enforce the specified work or to solve disputes when a contractor does not deliver adequate work. A way to foster integrity even more is to publish the contract specifications and the implementation details. That way third parties can monitor the work.
The specifications must clearly define what is expected from a contractor: the outputs (for services) or the functional and performance requirements (for goods), rather than listing specific technical requirements.2,3
When writing specifications, it is important to apply each of the 4 C’s and to use words that are easily understood: 2,3
- Clear: no ambiguity
- Concise: no excess verbiage
- Complete: All required information in the proper format
- Correct: Technically accurate and applicable to the project
Before setting the final specifications it is useful to have them vetted by someone other than the author in order to make sure that they are clear and easy to read.2,3
Once the standards are specified in contracts,
- The project owner can monitor the contractor’s work based on the specified standards. If the work does not conform to the contract, the project owner has a legal basis to confront the contractor. In case of nonfulfillment the contract can be terminated by default.
- Contractual sanctions in case of non-compliance with the contract standards can be stipulated, e.g. also in relation to integrity standards. 2,3
KEY GUIDING DOCUMENTS
Victorian Government Procurement Group, 2012, Good Practice Guidelines. Specification Writing, Victorian Government Procurement Group Department of Treasury and Finance
SYPTE, no year, Appendix B. Guide to Specification Writing, South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive (SYPTE), http://www.sypte.co.uk/uploadedFiles/Corporate/Freedom_Of_Information/ProcurementGuideAppendixB.pdf, accessed 03.12.2015
WikiHow, no year, How to Write a Technical Specification, WikiHow, http://www.wikihow.com/Write-a-Technical-Specification, accessed 03.12.2015
SBA, no year, Understanding the Federal Marketplace: Contract Responsibilities, The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), http://www.sba.gov/content/contract-responsibilities#Specifications, accessed 03.12.2015
WRAP, no year, Sustainable Procurement Regional Guidelines. Contract Specification and Clauses,WRAP
World Bank, 2010, Publishing Construction Contracts and Outcome Details,World Bank
McDot Engineering Division, 2011, A Guide for the Preparation of Contract Specification, McDot Engineering Division
- Business Dictionary, no year, Specification, Business Dictionary, http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/specification-spec.html, accessed 03.12.2015
- McDot Engineering Division, 2011, A Guide for the Preparation of Contract Specification
- Victorian Government Procurement Group, 2012, Good Practice Guidelines. Specification Writing, Victorian Government Procurement Group Department of Treasury and Finance