Dispute resolution methods adopted by contractors during COVID-19 in Eastern Cape South Africa: A Case Study
Over the past months, the socioeconomic consequences of the ravaging COVID-19 pandemic reverberated through and affected all segments of life. The construction industry is not left out. The severe impacts of COVID-19 have not only witnessed tragic human losses but have also caused colossal devastating implications for construction procurement and general contract condition. The study examined the dispute resolution methods adopted by contractors in Eastern Cape, South Africa, during the COVID-19 experience to determine their appropriateness and effectiveness. The study employed a snowballing, purposive, non-probability sampling technique with a mixed research design driven by respondents' participatory action. Twelve senior personnel were interviewed, while questionnaires were administered to 30 referred employees on the sites. XLSTAT statistical software and thematic analysis were used for the aggregated questionnaire and qualitative respondents' interviews in drawing inferences. The results revealed that an interest-based rather than a right-based approach are two sides of a coin that can make or mar the wheel of progress in arriving at an amicable agreement to contract terms in construction. The need for re-negotiation in billing, which is at variance with the various construction claim, cannot be over-emphasised. At the same time, the intuitive assertions of negotiation, mediation, and conciliation were used in resolving unforeseen delays, claims, and added costs due to disruptions of COVID-19. The study's main contribution lies in mastering and deploying appropriate dispute resolution methods in project execution. The study is of utmost importance in planning, restoring, and deriving optimal societal benefits from conflict management amidst the adverse effect of Covid -19 on any construction project.
Keywords: Conciliation, Construction dispute, COVID-19; Mediation, Negotiation
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