The regional Dispute Resolution Board Federation (DRBF) Conference took place from 27–28 February 2014 with various presentations and panel discussions exploring the application of contemporary Dispute Boards in southern Africa. Frik van der Merwe, consulting engineer and member of the South African Institution of Civil Engineering (SAICE) attended the Conference which drew many interested DRB delegates from across Africa, UK, Europe, USA and Australia as well as several client organisations including SANRAL and TCTA.
During the Conference, it was raised that despite the fact that the Dispute Adjudication Board (DAB) process is included in most contracts, those provincial or local authorities who have the power to adjudicate, were not in attendance and this is where SAICE and other such organisations can play a guiding role to highlight the importance of DABs. In addition, Van der Merwe established that many clients and/or contractors shy away from appointing a DAB at commencement of a contract, that is, a standing DAB in a bid to save costs assuming no disputes will occur. However, the costs for standing DABs are nominal compared to the potential costs for resolution of disputes through formal ad hoc DAB proceedings followed (potentially) by litigation or arbitration.
Currently there is no guidance as to what size contract warrants the appointment of a ‘standing’ DAB, however, there is general consensus that a proper functioning standing DAB can effectively play a proactive role in the avoidance of disputes, without compromising its position to adjudicate it, should a dispute eventually develop. As South Africa currently does not have a forum to train, accredit and regulate the appointment of adjudicators, this is certainly something SAICE can assist with.