The Addis Ababa Chamber of Commerce and Sectoral Associations Arbitration Institute (AACCSA AI) organized a workshop last march 20, 2010, on issues related to construction disputes. AACCSA AI conducted the workshop as one of its responsibilities to promote awareness on arbitration and alternative dispute resolution and as part of its annual plan.
More than 40 Civil engineers and legal professionals working in the construction sector that were drawn from the private and public bodies participated in the workshop. Following a brief introductory opening speech on the objective of the workshop and its agenda, Ato Yohannes Woldegebriel, Director of the ACCSA AI invited Ato Teshome Secretary General of AACCSA to formally inaugurate the workshop. In his key note address, Ato Teshome emphasized the need to resolve construction disputes through arbitration and other alternative dispute resolution mechanisms. He underscored the various efforts of AACCSA AI in helping resolve commercial disputes since its establishment in 2002.
Ato Teshome also explained that among the various tasks carried out by AACCSA AI are organizing workshops and providing trainings on dispute resolutions. He informed participants that several workshops and trainings have been conducted by the Institute to create awareness and help build capacity. To strengthen the autonomy and effective functioning of the Institute, he mentioned the procedural rules that were adopted last June 2009 as an important step taken by AACCSA. Finally, he urged participants to make active discussions and meaningful contributions.
Following the formal opening, the workshop was superbly chaired by Eng. Seyoum Desta, a civil engineer with long years of tremendous experiences. In the workshop, a power point presentation of two papers was made under the titles “Delay and disruption protocol” and “Drafting adjudication and arbitration clauses” respectively.
Ato Aschalew Asfaw, a legal expert at the Ethiopian Roads Authority, and Dr.Ing Wubishet Jekale, construction consultant and university lecturer, jointly presented the paper on the title “Delay and disruptions protocol.” The presenters examined the core principles involved and aptly described the various grounds and remedies available on construction work delay and disruption. It is recalled that Delay and disruption are some of the common issues and major problems that occur in many construction work contracts. The presentation aimed at providing solutions to the problem and avoiding unnecessary dispute.
The second paper was presented by Ato Yohannes Woldegebriel Director of the Arbitration Institute. The paper examines techniques of drafting adjudication and arbitration clauses. In his paper Ato Yohannes noted that most construction contracts have poorly drafted adjudication and arbitration clauses. He even argued that judging from the various contracts submitted to the Institute, adjudication and arbitration clauses are drafted by non-lawyers that are hardly familiar to legal drafting.
He noted that this might have been necessitated by the fact that the legal professionals are often ignored during the drafting process or are unable to provide appropriate support during when so required. He emphasized that this scenario should be changed and as contract drafting is part of legal drafting the role of lawyers is critical to prevent and avoid pitfalls in the drafting of various clauses of the construction contracts.
Six samples of adjudication and arbitration clauses were presented to participants that were compiled from real cases filed at the AACCSA AI with due respect to the requirements of confidentiality of the case as well as the parties in accordance with applicable laws and various rules adopted by AACCSA Board of Directors. The examples demonstrated how adjudication and arbitration clauses are drafted recklessly. The sample adjudication and arbitration clauses though supposedly prepared with a forward looking idea of providing dispute settlement mechanisms, they are rather the breeding ground to many problems.
He concluded that most adjudication and arbitration clauses are vague, ambiguous, contradictory and artless. He also cited that local contractual forms are not immune from critics and indicated the confusing formulation of adjudication and arbitration clauses under public Procurement and Property Authority General and Special Conditions of contract forms. By suggesting some of the solutions for the problem, he appealed for a joint effort of fellow legal and engineering professionals to work with increasing collaboration and seek solution to avoid the current dismal situation.
Participants also discussed a draft instrument prepared for the formation of a Society of Construction Dispute. This establishment of this society is the initiative of persons interested in matters related to construction disputes resolution in Ethiopia to do something themselves about the necessary professional development as a combination of Continuous stand alone effort and any input from abroad.” The idea of creating such society was conceived after a training conducted by AACCSA AI in collaboration with Connect Ethiopia on construction law and dispute resolution last October 2009. The draft document was prepared following several meetings and discussions held with a support provided by AACCSA AI. Following the announcement in the workshop of the lapse of the mandate of the ad hoc committee elected to prepare the draft, workshop participants agreed to elect new members of a committee that will finalize the previous works and establish the society. The workshop was attended by a good number of government and private media and received wide range of publicity.