The joys of completion meetings: sign on the dotted line, please
Public sector project work: the advisors’ no-man’s-land
When you work as a government advisor on international infrastructure projects, there is no such thing as a short mandate. The projects tend to run and overrun for years. In most jurisdictions, you will get a handful of advisory consortia bidding for government work in a variety of sectors. Depending on the country, this can cover anything from power generation, oil and gas, transport, infrastructure, construction, healthcare, or education projects.
Where bidders are expected to go to market and procure project financing from commercial banks, export credit agencies or other financial institutions, governments will usually look for a trio of financial, legal, and technical advisors. The request for proposal for advisors will usually have a host of unreasonable demands. However, these demands are the price of admittance if you want to get a seat at the table.
Governments will demand a fixed lump sum fee to cover a broad, woolly, and vague scope of work. On a liberal interpretation, you are on the hook to draft a will for the project manager as well as be liable to do his personal conveyancing. They want to cover anything remotely related (or often completely unrelated) to the project. This will negate any possibility of the advisors submitting contract variation requests. They usually want an unlimited number of meetings, with little or no notice. Oh, and they do not pay for your travel or accommodation costs. Additionally, we will be bidding based on a 12 to 18-month project. When the project inevitably overruns you will spend the rest of your time trying to agree to a contract variation which may or may not be forthcoming.
They want the moon on a stick and won’t pay for it. Remember to say thank you for the opportunity to be completely abused by your clients.
The completion meeting: three years in the making
This sets the scene for my favourite infrastructure project. It was over three years in the making. We did eventually agree to a variation, which was very welcome given the amount of work we undertook. After much procrastination, posturing, dithering and hand wringing, the eve of the signing…