• Role of Courts in Arbitration: International Perspective and Ugandan context.



    Arbitration is always presented as an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) mechanism where parties do not have to go to court to resolve a dispute and rather submit the dispute to a neutral third party who renders an award. The key question that arises then is whether the courts have a role in arbitration and if so, what the extent of this role is.

    In this article, we shall delve into the role of courts in arbitration from both an international and domestic Ugandan perspective. The international perspective will be based on the UNCITRAL Model Law while the domestic Ugandan perspective will be based on the Arbitration and Conciliation Act 2000.

    International perspective with the Model Law

    The United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) Model Law on International Commercial Arbitration 1985 with amendments as adopted in 2006 (herein referred to as “the Model Law”) outlines the role of courts in arbitral proceedings. Article 5 of the Model Law points out specific circumstances where courts can intervene in arbitration, limiting their interference to supporting the process. Furthermore, the Model Law does not allow judicial supervision on procedural decisions as was held by the Superior Court of Quebec in the case of Cie Nationale Air France v Libyan Arab Airlines[1]. As such, there are restrictions to courts’ involvement in international arbitration.

    In essence, the Model Law allows for court intervention in certain instances to aid the process due to the court’s coercive powers which are absent for tribunals. These instances are detailed in Article 6 of the Model Law and can occur at the arbitration’s commencement, during proceedings, and after the arbitrator’s award.

    At the beginning of the arbitration, the court aids in enforcing the arbitration agreement, establishing the tribunal, and addressing challenges to its jurisdiction. The courts can be used to enforce arbitration agreements in Article 8(1) of the Model Law by refusing to accept proceedings in court in a matter which is the subject of an arbitration agreement and instead refer that matter to arbitration. Additionally, if there are no clear provisions for constituting the arbitral tribunal or applicable institutional rules, courts may appoint arbitrators as stipulated in Article 11(3) of the Model Law and this can be seen in the case of Montpellier Reinsurance Ltd v Manufacturers Property & Casualty Ltd[2]. While initial jurisdictional challenges may be handled by the tribunal, the final authority on tribunal jurisdiction lies with the courts as affirmed in Article 16(3) of the Model Law and as was held in the case of PT Tugu v Magma Nusantra Ltd[3].

    During the arbitration proceedings, courts can intervene in the issuance of interim relief to parties. Article 9 of the Model Law and Article 26(9) of the UNCITRAL Arbitration Rules (2021) (herein referred to as “the Rules”) provide that interim measures by the courts shall not be deemed to be incompatible with the arbitration agreement. These measures which are outlined in Article 17(2) of the Model Law aim to maintain the status quo and the integrity of the arbitration process. They include measures concerning witness attendance and documentary disclosure as provided in Article 27 of the Model Law. Importantly, these interim measures do not waive a party’s right to arbitration.

    At the end of the proceedings, courts enforce arbitration awards under Article 34(2) of the Model Law.

    The Ugandan Context

    In Uganda, arbitration is governed by the Arbitration and Conciliation Act 2000 (herein referred to as the “Act”). The Arbitration and Conciliation Act 2000 is a derivative of the Model Law. The central aim of the Model Law was to harmonize the laws concerning arbitration through the provision of an internationally agreed legal framework for the conduct of international commercial arbitration, with an emphasis on party autonomy and restriction of interference by the courts of the place of arbitration. As such, the Ugandan statute espouses these virtues that are central tenets to the arbitration process.

    Similar to the Model Law, the Act restricts court intervention in the arbitral process in section 9 save for the situations that it enumerates. The instances when courts can intervene in the arbitral process are at the commencement of the process, during proceedings and after the arbitrator renders the award to the dispute.

    At the beginning of the arbitration process, the court can protect the arbitration process from suffering a still birth by enforcing the arbitration agreement in section 5 of the Act. With this, court is able to refer a matter brought to it back to arbitration if the arbitration agreement between the parties is operable. Unlike the Model Law, the Act does not expressly mention the court as one of the remedies to parties that have failed to appoint an arbitral tribunal. The Act instead refers to an appointing authority in this case. Similar to the Model Law, the final authority on tribunal jurisdiction lies with the courts as illustrated by Section 16(6) and the court’s decision on the arbitrator’s jurisdiction shall be final and not subject to appeal as provided for by section 16(7) of the Act.

    During the arbitration proceedings, the court may grant interim measures of relief to parties in the arbitral process under section 5 of the Act. Contrary to the Model Law, the Act does not provide a breakdown of the different interim measures that parties can apply for from court. However, section 28 of the Act permits the courts to assist in the taking of evidence in a means to protect the status quo of the evidence.

    At the end of the Arbitral process, the courts can be used to recognize and enforce an arbitrator’s award under section 35 of the Act and also to set aside an award under section 34 of the Act.


    Whereas there exists de minimis variations between the Act and the Model Law, both provide for limited court intervention in the arbitral process. The Act and Model Law provide for the courts to occupy a supervisory position and not meddle in the arbitration process thereby supporting the arbitration process to move from commencement stage to enforcement of the arbitrator’s award.

    [1] [2000] R.J.Q. 717 (Quebec S.Ct.).

    [2] [2008] SC (Bda) 27 Com (24 April 2008).

    [3] [2003] SGHC 204.

  • Introduction

    Recently, Members of Parliament in Uganda were denied entry into a construction site of the Lubowa Specialized Hospital under the pretext that the Members of Parliament were visitors who did not have unfettered access to the construction site. This sparked debate across different platforms where the tax payers were struggling to understand why the MPs who play an oversight role for the government could not access a site of a public project. A number of key questions arose from this debacle: What informs the Contractor’s action of restricting visitors’ access to site? Does this affect a Contractor’s outlook towards Health and Safety protocols on the site?

    In trying to understand why visitors do not have unfettered access to construction sites, we need to understand the Contractor’s liability as an occupier under Occupiers’ Liability.

    Who is an occupier?

    An occupier is defined in the case of Wheat v E. Lacon &Co. Ltd as a person who exercises an element of control over premises. This control includes physical control of premises and legal control of premises as was established in Harris v Birkenhead Corporation. Often, it’s the case that after the commencement order, the Employer hands over the site to the Contractor. This is exhibited, for instance, in Subclause 2.1 of the 1999 FIDIC forms of Contract. It is also a common feature in the JCT forms of contract where the Employer is required to give possession of the site to the Contractor on the Date of possession which is stated in the Contract particulars. In London Borough of Hounslow v Twickenham Garden Developments, it was held that th Contractor was entitled to such possession, occupation or use as was necessary to enable it to perform the contract. The Contractor will then have possession of the site from the date of possession until the date of completion.

    Who, then is considered to be a visitor to premises?

    A visitor to premises (site) is considered in three categories, namely:

    • Those with express permission
    • Those with implied permission: Implied permission is also subject to limitations which, if exceeded, render the person a trespasser. In Harvey v Plymouth City Council, it was held that any implied permission to enter must be exercised properly.
    • Those with a right to enter: The law gives rights to entry to certain categories of people which render them within the definition of lawful visitors irrespective of the wishes of the occupier for instance police officers entering under warrant.

    A duty of care is owed by an occupier to the three categories of persons stated above. Visitors to the site therefore are duly covered under the Occupiers’ Liability Principle. The occupier’s duty is to ensure that the visitor is not injured while on the premises. This can be particularly highlighted for road projects that run over a long distance and are used by different visitors at different times of the day and night. The Contractor has a duty of care towards visitors in the three stated categories. As such, there has been a general shift in Contractors’ mindsets towards Health and Safety Protocols as most contractors have adopted to use preventive measures that will ensure safety for all visitors of the site/ premise. The same applies for building projects.

    Regarding the duty of care, although there is similarity with the standard of care in negligence, there is also an important distinction as an occupier is empowered by statute to determine the boundaries of his liability in section 2(1) Occupiers’ Liability Act 1957 in England and Wales for instance. Generally, since the occupier controls the extent of the permission to enter, a visitor who acts in a manner contrary to that permission becomes a trespasser. The issue of the trespasser will be dealt with below.

    Since children have access to sites sometimes and are largely considered to be less careful than adults, case law has sought to balance the responsibility between occupiers and parents as was seen in the case of Phipps v Rochester Corporation. Additionally, the level of care expected will depend upon the nature of the risk and the age and awareness of the child. In the case of Titchener v BRB it was held that no duty of care was owed to a 15-year-old boy who was struck by a train while walking on a railway line at night as he was aware of the dangers posed by his activity. A duty will exist if the land/premise holds concealed dangers or allurements that tempt children into danger as was seen in the case of Glasgow Corporation v Taylor.

    Use of Warning Signs

    Under the Occupiers’ Liability Principle, an occupier has a duty of care towards visitors and it may be satisfied if the occupier displays warning signs or cordons off areas that are dangerous. The following factors need to be taken into account when considering whether a warning sign was enough to enable the visitor to be reasonably safe:

    • A visitor should know what risk he is facing and therefore the warning has to be specific. As such, the Contractor could be liable where there is a deep excavation and he does not alert visitors to the site to it using a specific warning sign.
    • Hidden dangers necessitate greater efforts to call attention to them than readily apparent risks for instance as in the case of Staples v West Dorset District Council in the UK where it was held that risks posed by wet algae on a high wall were so obvious that there was no need for a warning sign. The Ugandan case of Gakumba v Mandela National Stadium Ltd also highlighted the fact that the defendant was liable due to absence of warning signs and security lights where there was an uncovered manhole.
    • Is the sign combined with other safety measures? The use of fencing or barriers emphasizes the need for safety.

    Who is a trespasser on a site?

    A trespasser is defined in the case of Robert Addie &Sons Ltd v Dumbreck as someone who goes in the premise without invitation of any sort and where presence is either unknown to the proprietor, of if known, is practically objected to. As such, it is true that in instances, a Contractor has limitations on who enters the premise(site). The key question then arises as to whether a Contractor bears liability on injuries to trespassers.

    The approach taken by the courts to determining liability towards trespassers can be seen in Young v Kent County Council. The issues of liability of injuries caused to child trespassers was further explored by Court of Appeal in Keown v Coventry Healthcare NHS Trust. Keown makes an important distinction between injury caused by the danger caused by the state of the building and the dangerous use of perfectly well-maintained premises. This was also seen in Tomlinson v Congleton where it was held that injuries arising from the claimant’s dangerous use of otherwise safe premises will not give rise to liability under the Occupiers’ Liability Principle.


    The contractor, as an occupier, has a duty of care to keep visitors under different categories safe while they use the site. This can have lasting effect on the Contractor’s Health and Safety protocols as a way of dealing with this liability. Contractors are therefore encouraged to develop robust Health and Safety Protocols in order to keep workers and visitors safe while they use the site premises. Additionally, visitors are encouraged to act within the ambits of the set protocols and warning signs while accessing a construction site given the high risk of injury on construction sites.

  • Introduction

    Adjudication is an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) mechanism where an independent neutral third party makes a decision on a dispute between parties. The decision is temporarily binding. The adjudicator acts in an intermediate capacity on the spectrum between expert determination and arbitration. Adjudication is a common method of dispute resolution in the construction industry around the globe due to its benefits which include speed, flexibility, use of experts to resolve disputes, cost effectiveness and privacy. As such, it has also found a place in the construction industry in Uganda on public works however the uptake is still low in the private industry. This article will address the nature of adjudication in Uganda and offer a critique of selected judgements from CADER that seem to conflate adjudication and arbitration as the same ADR mechanism.

    Forms of Adjudication

    There are three forms of adjudication, namely: statutory, contractual and ad hoc. On the one hand, statutory adjudication is a form of adjudication in jurisdictions like England and Wales where there is an Act that applies to a contract between parties. The Act in this case is the Housing Grants, Construction and Regeneration Act (HGCRA) 1996 as amended by the Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Act (LDEDCA) 2009. When a contract falls within the description of a ‘construction contract’ in the Act, then a mandatory provision of dispute resolution by adjudication applies.

    Contractual adjudication, on the other hand, is a form of adjudication where an Act does not apply, but the parties have agreed a mechanism in their contract where they resolve disputes by adjudication. Lastly, Ad hoc adjudication refers to a form of adjudication where the parties have agreed to submit their dispute, without reservation, to adjudication, thereby giving an adjudicator impromptu jurisdiction to decide their dispute in circumstances where an Act does not apply and where there is no pre-existing contractual agreement to adjudicate. In Uganda, the most common forms of adjudication are contractual and ad hoc adjudication. Uganda does not have a statutory adjudication regime in place for the construction industry.

    Standard Form Contracts and Adjudication in Uganda

    Contractual adjudication in Uganda is common due to the proliferation of the use of Standard Form Contracts mostly on public projects and a few private projects. The common Standard Form Contracts in Uganda include the Public Procurement and Disposal Authority (PPDA) form of Contract, FIDIC forms of contract and the East Africa Institute of Architects form of contract which is usually used on building projects in the private industry.

    It is critical to note that there must be a dispute in order for the adjudication process to become operable. Courts have held in the case of AMEC Civil Engineering Ltd v Secretary of State for Transport [2004] EWHC 2339 that the word dispute should be given its normal meaning and there is no special meaning ascribed to it. A dispute crystallizes when a claim made by one party is either accepted, modified or rejected by the other party as was held in the case of Fastrack v Morrison [2000] 75 ConLR 33.

    The Adjudication process in the PPDA forms of Contract which are often used on public works has come under scrutiny in a number of cases at the Centre of Arbitration and Dispute Resolution (CADER) severally. CADER was established in the Arbitration and Conciliation Act 2000 in section 68 with a role of performing administrative procedures for Alternative Dispute Resolution processes which were mainly considered to be arbitration and conciliation. It was often the institution of choice for parties in appointment of adjudicators.

    Selected Cases at CADER

    Reference is made to the selected cases of Board of Governors, John Paul S.S Chelekura v Kheny Technical Services Ltd, China Jiangxi Corporation for International Economic and Technical Corporation v Cotton Development Organization, Namabale Enterprises Ltd v Busitema University and Plinth Technical Works Ltd v Hoima Municipal Local Government Council where the parties wrote to CADER requesting for the appointment of an adjudicator. All these cases had a similar dispute resolution clause which was adopted from the clause in the PPDA form of contract. The clause is replicated here for ease of reference:

    24. Disputes

    24.1 If the contractor believes that a decision taken by the Project Manager was either outside the authority given to the Project Manager by the Contract or that the decision was wrongly taken, the decision shall be referred to any Adjudicator appointed under the contract within 14 days of the notification of the Project Manager’s decision.

    The clause further reads that:

    25. Procedure for Disputes

    25.1 Unless otherwise specified in the SCC, the procedure for disputes shall be as specified in GCC 25.2 to 25.4.

    25.2 Any Adjudicator appointed under the contract shall give a decision in writing within 28 days of receipt of a notification of a dispute, providing that he is in receipt of all the information required to give a decision.

    25.3 Any adjudicator appointed under the contract shall be paid by the hour at the rate specified in the SCC, together with reimbursable expenses of the types specified in the SCC, and the cost shall be divided equally between the Employer and the Contract, whatever decision is reached by the Adjudicator. Either party may refer a decision of the Adjudicator to an Arbitrator within 28 days of the Adjudicator’s written decision. If neither party refers the dispute to arbitration within the above 28 days, the Adjudicator’s decision will be final and binding.

    25.4 Any arbitration shall be conducted in accordance with the arbitration law of Uganda, or such other formal mechanism specified in the SCC, and in the place shown in the SCC.

    In this case, the SCC stands for Specific Conditions of Contract. The SCC provided for the procedure for disputes to be as specified in the GCC 25.2 to 25.4 which are shown above and then provided for the Centre of Arbitration and Dispute Resolution to be the appointing authority for the Adjudicator.

    It should also be noted that the Contract defined an adjudicator as:

    1.1 (b) The ‘Adjudicator’ is the person appointed jointly by the Employer and Contractor to resolve disputes in the first instance.” (Emphasis added)

    In the construction of this clause, the Executive Director of CADER stated that the definition of an adjudicator is synonymous with the function of the arbitration agreement set out in s.2(1)(e) Arbitration and Conciliation Act, Cap 4 which is replicated here for ease of reference:

    “arbitration agreement” means an agreement by the parties to submit to arbitration all or certain disputes which have arisen or which may arise between them in respect of defined legal relationship, whether contractual or not.”

    The Executive Director further proceeded to state that “there is no provision in the ACA, which restricts the definition of an arbitrator.” (Emphasis added)

    He then adds that “I accordingly exercise the powers vested by S.11(4) ACA to appoint an adjudicator.” (Emphasis added)

    This was a consistent construction of the clauses and conclusion in decision across all of these selected cases.

    A Critique of these decisions

    It can be noted that there is a conflation of arbitration and adjudication which are different dispute resolution mechanisms. It is true that the parties chose CADER as an adjudicator nominating body basing on the fact that CADER was in place to administer this function, but this does not in any way call for the use of the definition of an arbitrator in the construction of the clause. CADER ‘s role in this case was to appoint an adjudicator and not an arbitrator.

    It should be noted that the parties had already defined who an adjudicator was in their contract and that the adjudicator had jurisdiction on disputes in the first instance. It can also be interpreted that there are two instances that the adjudicator would be called into action and that is when one of the parties was dissatisfied with the Project Manager’s decision but also when any other dispute crystallized between the parties as guided by the procedure for disputes in the SCC which was referenced above.

    The arbitrator would only be called into action when one of the parties is dissatisfied with the adjudicator’s decision. Whereas the Executive Director mentioned that there is no provision in the Arbitration and Conciliation Act that restricted the definition of an arbitrator, it is also true that an arbitrator and an adjudicator serve roles which may be different and have outcomes that have differing degrees of finality. An adjudicator’s decision is temporarily binding while the arbitrator’s award is final and binding. Therefore, it can be seen that an arbitrator and an adjudicator are not one and the same.

    Reference to an arbitration agreement is also faulty since in this case the parties were requesting for the appointment of an adjudicator for which they already had a pre-existing contractual mechanism to carry out that appointment and an Adjudicator Nominating Body named to do this. This contractual adjudication provision should not have been conflated with the arbitration agreement.

    In conclusion, adjudication and arbitration are two different procedures on the ADR continuum and therefore should not be conflated to mean one and the same. As such, it would not be correct to appoint an adjudicator using a section in the Arbitration and Conciliation Act in a country like Uganda with no statutory regime governing adjudication in the construction industry. This is critical in a situation where there is a provision for contractual adjudication between parties. The Arbitration and Conciliation Act 2000 governs arbitration and conciliation in Uganda and does not provide a similar legal framework as the HGCRA 1996 does in England and Wales. In any case, England and Wales have HGCRA 1996 to govern mandatory statutory adjudication and the Arbitration Act 1996 to govern arbitration.

  • Following the outlook into common law on the appraisal of a Contractor’s tortious liability under the tort of negligence in the previous article which can be found here: ,it is important to contrast that with civil jurisdictions like France, Germany or Saudi Arabia among others.

    How different would the Contractors tortious liability be under a civil jurisdiction?

    In this article, while considering how the issue might have been differently addressed in a Civil Code Country, reference is made to the French Civil Code. The structure of French tort law is such that it does not spell out the different torts like negligence, trespass and nuisance but rather provides for them generally in Articles 1240 to 1245 of the Civil Code. There is no limitation on the type of wrong which may arise under these articles since they are drafted to be very wide.

    Article 1245-8 provides that the claimant must demonstrate the harm, the defect and the causal relationship between the defect and the harm. These constitute the three elements of the claimant’s burden of proof in order to prove liability. Therefore, there is no need for a duty of care as would have been required by common law. Additionally, there is no need of application of the neighbour principle under French law. The claimant needs to prove the defect and the damages that he is pursuing. The French Civil code does not show how this link between defect and harm should be assessed but it must be direct causal link between the harm and the defect.

    Based on this, using an example of an Employer on a building project that has suffered structural failure due to defects in construction and (or) design, the Employer could prove that the defect in the construction and (or)design of the Works caused failure of the structure and the Contractor would be liable under French law. Once the claimants (the Employers in this case) ably prove fault, damage and the causal link between the fault and the damage, they can win all their compensation.

    Article 1241 provides that an individual is responsible for harm caused not only by their actions but also by their failure to act or exercise due care. This provision allows one to be liable for one’s omissions which is a departure from common law where in Stovin v Wise[1] it was held that the law does not recognize a duty of care owed to the whole world to take positive action to prevent harm. In Caparo v Dickman[2] terms, imposing such a general duty would be unfair, unjust or unreasonable. Referring to the instant facts, a Contractor would be liable to an Employer for actions that led to structural failure. Additionally, a Contractor would be liable to an Employer due to their inaction or lack of care in ensuring that the structure that was handed over was not under designed and improperly constructed.

    Article 1242 provides that one is not only liable for the harm resulting from one’s actions but also for harm caused by the actions of those for whom they are responsible or by things under their care. From this, where a contractor has subcontractors on site, it can be considered that the Contractor is responsible for the Subcontractor’s actions. The Contractor would be open to multiple fronts of liability as a result depending on the different parties that are affected by the different subcontractor’s actions.

    Article 1244 provides that a building owner, referred to as the Employer in this article, is liable for the harm caused by its collapse when that resulted from a lack of maintenance or construction defect. This indicates that liability arises from lack of maintenance or construction defects even when the owner of the building is not responsible for the cause of the defects. This is a departure from common law where a Contractor would instead be liable under public nuisance.

    In conclusion, in addition to the liabilities of the respective parties already established under common law, French law imposes an additional liability to an Employer where the Employer would be liable to parties that suffer due to the defective building that it owns. The burden of proof required from the claimants differs from that under common law given that the claimants now must fulfil the burden of proof in Article 1245-8. Additionally, Contractors could be open to multiple fronts of liability due to actions of their subcontractors.

    [1] [1996] AC 923 (HL).

    [2] [1990] 2 A.C. 605.

  • Delay Analysis is a contentious issue in claims arising out of construction projects. Often time, there is an argument over the correct or more correct analysis method for delay analysis. The Society of Construction Law Delay and Disruption Protocol (‘SCL Protocol’) sets out the following differing methods of delay analysis that can be used to analyze the impact of a delay event to the critical path of a construction program:

    Delay Analysis Methods as set out in The Society of Construction Law Delay and Disruption Protocol

    On 17 October 2022, the High Court handed down its decision in Thomas Barnes & Sons plc v Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council [2022] EWHC 2598 (TCC), which related to the construction of a bus station in Blackburn.

    The claimant, Thomas Barnes & Sons plc (in administration) (‘Thomas Barnes’) was the contractor employed by a local Council, with the project suffering significant costs increases and delay.  The Council purported to terminate Thomas Barnes’ contract and engage another contractor to complete the works.  Soon after, Thomas Barnes went into administration, with the administrators subsequently seeking approximately £1.7 million in damages.  This included an entitlement to prolongation and delay-related damages, which led the Judge to provide some discussion on the differing forms of expert delay analysis relied on by the parties.

    In Thomas Barnes, the Judge noted that it would be wrong to place too much importance as to whether a particular method of delay analysis had been strictly followed, stating that:

    ‘The SCL Protocol itself discourages such an approach.  It states in the introduction that:

    (a) its objective is to provide useful guidance.

    (b) it is not intended to be a contract document nor to be a statement of the law;

    (c) its aim is to be consistent with good practice rather than to be a benchmark of best practice; and

    (d) its recommendations should be applied with common sense.  It states under paragraph 11.2 that “irrespective of which method of delay analysis is deployed, there is an overriding objective of ensuring that the conclusions derived from that analysis are sound from a commonsense perspective”.

    Thus, it would be wrong to proceed on the basis that, because the SCL Protocol identifies six commonly used methods of delay analysis, an expert is only allowed to choose one such method and any deviation from that stated approach renders their opinion fundamentally unreliable.  It must be borne in mind that the common objective of each is to enable the assessment of the impact of any delay to practical completion caused by particular items on the critical path to completion.  However, I do accept that if an expert selects a method which is manifestly inappropriate for the particular case or deviates materially from the method which he has said he is following, without providing any, or any proper, explanation, that can be a material consideration in deciding how much weight to place on the opinions expressed by the expert.’

    Especially when part of the claim centres around an extension of time, expert delay analysis is commonly relied on in both adjudication or litigation to prove or disprove a claim.  In light of the Judge’s comments in Thomas Barnes, it is not a requirement for a particular method to be strictly followed.  However, delay experts should be conscious of the impact that a deviation from the stated method used or the use of an inappropriate method will have on the weight of their evidence without a reasonable explanation

    Other observations from Thomas Barnes

    Traditional approaches to the main cause of delay have been the ‘dominant cause’ approach, focusing on the main cause of the delay, or alternatively, the ‘first in time’ approach, focusing on the event that occurs first. However, the Judge found that concurrent delays had occurred, even though there appeared to be a dominant delay, separate to one that occurred first. In this instance, the Judge made a finding that ‘depending upon the precise wording of the contract a contractor is probably entitled to an extension of time if the event relied upon was an effective cause of delay even if there was another concurrent cause of the same delay in respect of which the contractor was contractually responsible’. However, the Judge noted that despite being entitled to an extension of time for a dominant cause delay, the Contractor would not be entitled to costs for loss and expense where a separate concurrent delay occurred for which the contractor was contractually responsible.

  • The Contract: the foundation of Construction Projects



    Construction projects have peculiar characteristics unlike other commercial transactions and these characteristics result in construction projects being particularly sensitive to a large spectrum of risks. The prevailing influencing factor is the parties themselves. International construction projects for example, involve parties from differing cultural and legal backgrounds who bring with them their own ideas of not only how the works themselves should be performed, but also the way in which the parties are to structure and manage their contracting and project management. This is particularly influential when parties from differing jurisdictions enter into joint venture arrangements for the performance of works. The Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) project status report of March 2021, for example, showed that 14 out of 31 (45%) of the Upgrading Road Projects were being executed with joint ventures between consultancy companies from differing jurisdictions. More joint venture arrangements are expected with the advent of oil drilling and processing and the push for more involvement of local companies in these undertakings. Key considerations have to be taken, therefore, to consider who will undertake the essential functions required to take the project from concept to completion, and how the project risk including the risk inherent in valuing and paying for the work, will be handled.

    Checking for concrete slump at Drainage Improvement Works Project in Kawempe, Kampala City by CG Engineering Consults Staff and a member of the Consultant’s team.

    Risk management in Construction projects

    Successful project execution dictates that this risk must be managed and that parties settle the issues associated with project risk through contract provisions. These provisions allocate the project risks between the parties and offer specific remedies in the event of breach of contract or the occurrence of specified events. It is in this light, that the modern construction contract has become a sophisticated instrument and one that begs a question about what an ideal construction contract is. Also, important to note is that a project delivery method and a contract type that mirrors the risk profile of the project are congruent with risk allocation strategy.

    Project Delivery methods

    One distinguishing factor between various project delivery methods is who will carry the design responsibility. This concerns the level of the contractor’s involvement during the design phase. The traditional project delivery method is the “design-bid-build” where design and construction are contracted separately. Here, the owner carries out the design and only enters into a construction contract subsequent to the completion of design. The contactor is then selected by a means of competitive tender that includes a fully detailed design. The successful bidder has the obligation to construct the work designed by the owner in accordance with the owner’s detailed specifications and drawings. The March 2021 UNRA Project progress report of the upgrading roads projects showed that over 10 projects are being delivered with this method for instance Civil Works for the Upgrading of Rwenkunye-Apac-Lira-Puranga Road. Alternatively, the owner may allocate the design function to the contractor. This is commonly referred to as the “design-build” where design and construction are combined in a single contract with a single contractor. The design is accomplished in accordance with the Employer’s requirements after the award of the contract, with the contractor given broad leeway to design the job in an efficient manner. Ideally, the contractor is told what is needed, not how to achieve the desired product. This contract places additional risk on the contractor but may also leave the Employer facing a higher contract price as a result. The March 2021 UNRA Project progress report of the Upgrading roads project showed that over 3 projects were being delivered with this method for example Package 3 and Package 5 of the Critical Oil Roads.

    Once the owner has determined the delivery method, the next focus is on the type of contract. The choice of type of contract is linked to the overall payment and pricing structure that will govern the transaction.

    Types of Contracts

    The three basic types of contracts that are most commonly encountered in construction are: fixed price/lumpsum, re-measurement (admeasurement) and cost-plus. Fixed-price contracts are contracts where the contractor is paid a pre-agreed sum of money when they have successfully performed all of his or her obligations under the contract. Payment is made in pre-determined stages and the contractor assumes the risk for both performance and price. Re-measurement contracts involve the contractor having a fixed price for each item of work in accordance with the owner’s estimated quantities. During contract execution, the work completed by the contractor is measured and the amount the contractor is paid is determined as a product of the measured quantities and the contractor’s price for each item. In this, the Employer assumes the risk for the quantity and the contractor assumes the risk for the pricing. Under a cost-plus contract, the owner retains the cost risk, and the contractor is paid his or her costs including overheads and profit. This is more flexible in that it does not require full information at the time of tender, but this flexibility comes at a huge price for the owner. Additionally, administration of these contracts comes at a greater cost because complete records of all time and materials spent by the contractor on the work must be maintained and must be verifiable.

    Contract documents

    Construction contracts must include principal documents that identify and allocate the project risk and describe the works. The principal documents in a construction contract include:

    · The conditions of contract, general and specific

    · Technical documentation

    · Schedules

    · Programmes

    · Bills of quantities

    The contract sets forth the basic terms under which the parties are doing business together for example price and payment terms, commencement date, completion date, description of scope of work, allocation of risks of loss, alternative dispute resolution and indemnification provisions. The general conditions are a set of rules that cover problems such as claims, disputes, sub-contracting, changes, time, warranties, insurance, remedies, and termination that routinely arise in construction contracts.

    Specifications provide even more detail as to the materials to be used, the performance requirements for aspects of the project and the method or techniques of construction to be employed. The specifications fill in the necessary information that is not evident from the drawings and includes materials and workmanship clauses, schedules to provide additional information and provisional sums if required, for instance the General Specifications for Roads and Bridge Works by the Ministry of Works and Transport used in the execution of Road and Bridge projects in Uganda.

    The Employer’s requirements, as explained by Nael Bunni, are the main source of information for the general obligations of the contractor and should be drafted in a balanced manner so as to effectively specify the Employer’s needs, while not limiting the contractor’s flexibility in design to meet those needs. This term is used by FIDIC to denote the document that defines the purpose, scope and design and technical criteria of the works in design-build contracts. In Uganda, these are normally issued by a Procurement and Disposal Entity for example UNRA at the tendering stage.

    The bill of quantities, as used in an admeasured contract, is a list of the materials and their estimated quantities against which the contractors provide their rates during the tender phase. The agreed prices are then used for the periodic valuation of the works that have been executed.


    In conclusion, the ideal contract -the one that will be most cost effective- is one that assigns each risk to a party that is best equipped to manage and minimize the risk, recognizing the unique circumstances of the project. Therefore, it is important to undertake a comprehensive and systematic approach to identifying, assessing, and developing a risk mitigation strategy which can aid in drafting of proper construction contracts by construction parties and their representatives. It is also important to choose a project delivery system and a contract type that match the risk allocation and mitigation strategy. Drafting construction contracts, therefore, requires party representatives to be well conversant with the construction industry and the risks associated with it in order to avoid the danger that can arise from “copy and paste” of “construction contract templates”.