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4.4 Things Change

Circumstances change. The agency may need to consider changing the terms of the contract, and the contract should provide some scope to do this. A proposal for change could be initiated by either the Government agency or the NGO, and will be a subject for negotiation for the parties. In considering possible changes, the Government agency should think about:

  • The likelihood that proposed changes will better achieve its objectives.
  • The views of the provider.
  • The impact on the users of the service.
  • The realistic scope for change.
  • Any legal issues.

The reasons for changing the contract should be documented and the resulting contract should outline what procedures have been put in place to mitigate any risks arising from the change.

4.5 Dealing with Disputes

It is in both parties’ interests to avoid disputes that may escalate to Ministers, the Ombudsman or the Courts. Differences of opinion arise in any relationship. Dealing constructively with such differences of opinion is a feature of a good relationship. One of the advantages that a well constructed contract can provide, is the possibility of minimising disagreements by providing a tool to deal constructively with any disagreements that arise by:

  • Clearly recording the expectations that each party has of the other;
  • Clearly outlining how disputes will be dealt with;
  • Providing for a means of dealing with any likely areas of disagreement (e.g. using independent mediation);
  • Including a process by where each party can signal to the other a desire to alter the terms of the contract;
  • Recording agreed changes to the contract by annexing them to the contract.

In general, the optimal approach to dealing with differences is to deal with them promptly. This forms part of relationship management by discussion and mutual agreement. In some circumstances, outside help to might be required to deal with any dispute that the parties cannot resolve between themselves. In general both parties are likely to regard formal legal remedies are a last resort. Government agencies should not, however, shrink from making use of formal remedies if necessary. Government agencies should also bear in mind that the NGO is able to enforce its rights under the contract.

The contract should include clear provisions setting out the circumstances in which either party can terminate the contract.

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