QS made formal complaint about ‘frustrations and concerns’ with ‘nonchalant’ contractor
A consultant advising the client for the Grenfell Tower refurbishment complained that he had never “worked with a contractor operating with this level of nonchalance”.
The completion of the refurbishment project was “becoming a farce”, warned Neil Reed of Artelia Projects in an email sent to a colleague, Simon Cash, in May 2016, the month the project was supposed to complete.
His email came just over a month after he lodged a formal complaint with the contractor, Rydon, expressing “frustrations and concerns about a number of current issues with the project”.
In that email, to Rydon refurbishment director Steve Blake in March 2016, he said: “Both the client team and consultant team hold a perception that Rydon could and should be doing more in the run-up to completion.”
The issues he raised included the fact that Rydon were taking staff off the project, including Blake himself, although he was to be replaced by someone called Mike Brown.
“To withdraw at this critical stage shows little respect for the client team and provides very little confidence that Rydon is committed to completing this project efficiently or effectively,” Reed told Blake.
He also complained that neither Blake not Brown attended a progress meeting the week before, despite Rydon’s schedule slipping.
He went on to list five areas of the project’s handover procedure that were being “compromised by the lack of effort” to provide updated trackers, schedules and other key documents.
Artelia was appointed to three roles by the client: to act as its cost consultant, employer’s agent and CDM co-ordinator, while Leadbitter was originally the preferred design-and-build contractor but was replaced by Rydon because it was cheaper and cost was a major issue for the client.
In the March email that Reed sent to Cash, Artelia’s director of cost management, he wrote: “This is just to flag that this is becoming a farce: despite all our efforts to ensure a smooth landing I have to say I do not think I have ever worked with a contractor operating with this level of nonchalance.
“We are all getting sucked into doing far more than we ought to at this stage of the project. I am wondering if you need to write to TMO to express our concern and what we are endeavouring to do about it – additional site visits, additional meetings, endless emails on design related issues that don’t concern us as Claire [Williams, project manager at the TMO] is the design lead etc, challenging contractor etc. Happy to discuss.”
Frictions within Artelia
Wednesday’s hearing heard that there were also internal frictions between teams at Artelia towards the time its contract ended on October 6, 2015.
The CDM regulations changed that month, with CDM coordinators (CDMCs) abolished and replaced by the role of principal designer.
The TMO complained that Artelia only gave it two weeks’ notice that it must appoint a principal designer or bear that responsibility itself.
The inquiry heard there was some confusion about who would take on the role, with Rydon and architect Studio E both refusing and Cash warning his colleagues that Artelia could not do it – despite the potential for further fees – because it did not have control of the design. Yet at one point Artelia’s CDM co-ordinator, Colin James, was named on an official health and safety form as the principal designer.
Andrew Malcolm, who was working on Artelia’s contract as the TMO’s employer’s agent, emailed his CDMC colleague Paul Burrows complaining about his failure to communicate with the client about the handover of the “CDM bundle”.
Writing on October 26, 2015, he began: “With the greatest of respect, I don’t think this can be dumped on the client like this – assuming you’re expecting me to just forward this on… (or can it).”
Malcolm asked Burrows to arrange a meeting or call with the client “ahead of any cold emails” as a matter of urgency and certainly within the fortnight.
He concluded by saying: “I personally want to stop looking daft at client meetings for missing a deadline we (royal-Artelia-we) had 6 months+ to sort out, let alone any regulatory implications that may or may not have repercussions against Artelia….”
The following day Reed wrote to Cash and Malcolm on a similar matter, complaining that Burrows had not called Claire Williams of the TMO. He went on: “Accordingly despite all the effort to ensure a smooth transition re CDM, Claire considers Artelia’s efforts in this regard appalling. Andrew [Malcolm] and I were quite embarrassed by the lack of professional closure that I think we all expected and planned for from Paul.”
Questioned by inquiry QC Richard Millett, Cash agreed there “appears to be” friction within Artelia at this point. He said he tried to smooth the waters but felt the tone of Malcolm’s email was not acceptable.
The inquiry continues.