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Yes, it's really surprising that a system which "took dozens of experts six years to put together, and in the end involved thousands of pages of diagrams, maps, spreadsheets and contracts" didn't contain something that I've seen in nearly all the reasonably large buildings I've been in, some which have probably been there for many decades:


It's sadly often the cases for public contract here... Very much often, the contractor has no interest or incentive in doing a "quick and proper" job. Company that deal with public contract get really good at dragging the duration of a project, and its cost, way up. They know that the state will want to continue the project and will continue funneling money until its finish in any case.

And when a project has some incentive (often financial penalty when deadline are not respected), company will give unrealistic deadlines to win the contract and then just run the penalty has normal cost of the projects. I know some project that had years of delay and were still profitable for the private company.

Obviously it's not always the case, but having work for both a state owned company contracting private contractor and for a private contractor seeking public contract, it has certainly made me not optimistic about any projects funded by public money.

This is one of the reasons why in the UK, back in the early 1990s, it was recommended that construction projects (both public and private) switch to what is now called "NEC" contracts:

* https://www.designingbuildings.co.uk/wiki/NEC3

Most contracts are cookie cutter templates, so everyone is familiar with them and lawyers don't need to be called in to create bespoke solutions for every project. There are various options if fixed-priced or cost-plus is desired, and pre-agreed schedule is decided on so that payments only go out at specific milestones.

Can anyone from the UK comment on the pros/cons of the system?

NEC contracts are wonderful. I say this having worked on both the client and the contractor side.

Solves many, many problems and gets people working in collaboration. As a contractor I need to know the clients goals and as a client I need to help make the contract profitable.

All pros - no cons from me.

You could also be IBM and make lots of money while never delivering anything: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-03-01/canada-to...

Not directly related but comical to me, I recently heard from someone working with IBM that they are really upset over the calls from Washington to regulate big tech. Upset because they aren’t mentioned by politicians or the media as big tech. It’s almost like they don’t really matter anymore.

When I worked for a research department of the government years back, I was told that IBM contracts were banned in an officially unofficial manner from too many botched projects in the past.

> really upset over the calls from Washington to regulate big tech. Upset because they aren’t mentioned by politicians or the media as big tech.

To be fair, most of the calls concern American big tech companies. Not sure IBM qualifies anymore.


Or Sopra-Steria, or Cap-Gemini, even our national company have been really good at screwing up public projects :) .

There was even a project handle by Sopra-Steria that went so awry that even the Government said stop and went on to continue using their old solution. For them to do that takes a loooot of screwing up. Nevertheless, they were still contracted for other projects afterward :) .

I find this often happens with any decision by consensus type of things.

Everyone has a concern or an area they take over. There's a reason most power structures end up with a single person being the decision maker. For better or worse, it seems there needs to be one person who is responsible for busting everyone's chops and asking the hard questions.

I've seen this psychology play out even in small non-profits where everyone has good intentions.

I can see how that might be true in general, but would it really apply here? Even at my most cynical, I have a hard time believing a contractor would be so careless about Notre Dame, a major national symbol.

Firstly, calling Notre Dame a National symbol is a bit exaggerated. Honestly, for a lot of French not living in Paris, Notre Dame is just another Cathedral with a lot of advertisement because its Paris (France/French relationship with Paris is ... complicated).

Secondly, yes, most contractor focus on money, not really doing the best job they can (I mean, in many way, the fire is a proof of this). I work for, arguably, one of the most critical French industry. One that France rely on for security and, somewhat, energy. Some of the worker were proud of doing something for their country, but the decision from higher-ups were purely financial. And it is what is expected from them to be honest.

>Secondly, yes, most contractor focus on money, not really doing the best job they can (I mean, in many way, the fire is a proof of this).

I specifically said I wasn’t disputing the claim in general, only the extent to which a contractor would risk it like this in a high-profile case.

Was it a public contract? I thought the Archdioceses owned Notre Dame?

All cathedrals in France have been owned by the state since 1905. Smaller churches are owned by the local communes. This was done to remove the influence of the Catholic Church in French affairs by removing a source of income for them.

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