The most important standards by which to judge a consultant’s suitability to carry out a particular project are:
• Professional competence
• Managerial ability
• Availability of resources
• Fairness of fee structure
• Professional integrity
• Quality assurance system
The client should seek information on all these matters by:
• Obtaining comprehensive pre-qualification information from the consultant in a form appropriate for the assignment.
• Interviewing senior personnel identified for the assignment.
• Visiting consultants and examining systems and methods of work, as well as hardware and software capabilities.
• Where applicable, speaking to previous clients.
The competent professional consultant is able to offer clients a team with the education, training, practical experience and judgement to carry out the project.
The client can evaluate the professional competence of the team by examining:
• The detailed resumes of key staff members and their relevant experience on similar assignments.
• A list of similar projects carried out by the firm and present staff.
• The approach to and methodology for the proposed assignment.
In addition, clients should validate the performance of the consultant on similar previous assignment and examine their history in similar foreign countries.
A successful consultant must have managerial skills to match the size and type of project objectives. Consultants need to marshal skilled manpower and adequate resources, maintain schedules and ensure the work is planned efficiently, and they will need to deal competently with contractors, suppliers, loan agencies, government agencies, and the public during the course of the project.
The client can assess the managerial ability of the consultant team by examining:
• Past projects performance record.
• Documentation and project control procedures that guide the performance of the consultant’s services.
• The success record of the proposed project manager on previous projects.
• Project management and quality control approach proposed for the new assignment.
• Progress reporting and client communication techniques proposed for the assignment.
• The success rate on previous projects of the consultant in transferring technology.
Availability of Resources
- When selecting a consultant, it is important to establish whether the firm has sufficient financial and manpower resources to carry out the project.
- Clients should have the assurance that a consultant is competent and subscribes to the FIDIC’s Code of Ethics. Consultants must approach all assignments objectively, exercise sound judgement, prudent economic principles, and provide solutions that serve the client’s best interests.
Fairness of Fee Structure
- The fee structure should be adequate to achieve the objectives of the project and meet the expectations of the client. At the same time, the fee must generate a reasonable profit for the consultant so the client is served with a well trained, experienced staff and the latest in innovative approaches.
Mutual trust and integrity represent the oil in the machinery of the relationship between client and consultant. If absolute trust exists between the client and the consultant, then the project will run more smoothly, the results will be better, and both parties will be much happier.
- Selection procedures that allow a consultant to use creativity, innovation, seasoned judgement and best practices in return for fair and adequate compensation, is in the best interest of the client. In an environment where investment money and loan funds are in short supply, it is in the interest of all concerned to focus on quality and value.
Terms of Reference
- Draft the terms of reference with an assessment of the physical magnitude and resource requirements of the project, under the following headings:
• Areas of expertise and categories of service
• Statement of work defining the project
• A time schedule
• Location, language, logistics, allowances, duration of commission
• Type of contract proposed
• A project budget
- Create a pre-qualification list of consulting firms that appear qualified for the project, from a number of sources including the ACEI Directory of Members and persons or organisations that have employed consultants for similar projects by advertisement in the National Press.
- Draw up a short list of no more than five consulting firms that appear to be most qualified for the project, bearing in mind the following factors:
• Relevant experience
• Capacity to complete the work
• Access to support resources
• Past performance on client contracts
• Location of the firm’s office in relation to the work
• Political, social and environment or sensitivity
• Security level required
Request for Proposals
- Invite the most suitable consultant to negotiate an agreement on project scope, fee and contract terms. A request for proposals should contain:
• Statement of work, terms of reference, and supporting documentation
• Submission or closing date
• Basis of evaluation
• Statement of information
• Expected selection date
Assessment of Proposals
- Once the proposals are received, the client should evaluate and rank each proposal against the basis for selection outlined in the request for proposal. This assessment helps to maintain the integrity of the selection process. Clients may also use an independent consultant during this evaluation.
- Selecting a qualified consultant has a major impact on the overall cost of the project. The decisions made by consultants in the first five percent of their involvement have the highest leverage on the life cycle cost of the project.
Forms of Agreement
- When drawing up the contract for consulting engineering services both the client and the consultant should protect their interests. Use the model Conditions of Engagement produced by the FIDIC or the Institution of Engineers of Ireland. These documents are highly recommended for reaching a fair and sound agreement between the client and the consultant.
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