Last edited 16 Feb 2021

Independent reviews in the construction industry

An independent review may occur when:

  • A state of affairs prevails that is deemed uncertain, unacceptable or dubious.
  • A long-standing practice or way of doing things needs improving.
  • A decision is made that requires objective review.

If a state of affairs or a contentious decision has been taken by an individual or agency, it may need to be reviewed by an independent, uninvolved and unbiased party in order to ensure that the decision is balanced, fair and just. Independent review offers the opportunity for decisions to be reconsidered. This may be because some consider that the original decision was not right or the decision made caused controversy.

Whatever the cause of a review, the reviewer – who can be an individual, government agency or other body – must not in any way be connected to the cause or consequences of the decision they are reviewing and must not have been potential beneficiaries of its outcome. They may, for example, engage in activities such as undertaking independent customer complaints reviews or may be working as an independent reviewer for a chartered body.

For example, some company activities may be deemed anti-competitive and potentially put companies at risk of breaking competition law. If this occurs, those companies may be breaking the law and risk significant consequences, such as heavy fines, director disqualifications and even imprisonment, not to mention reputational damage. When such activities have taken place, the companies in question may call for or be subject to an independent review.

Independent reviews are can be necessary in the construction industry. In one such instance from February 2016, the government asked the Construction Leadership Council (CLC) to conduct an independent review of:

The CLC commissioned Mark Farmer to undertake the review. Part of the objective was to remove the barriers that prevented more young people from considering a career in construction. The result of the review was a report called ‘The Farmer Review of the UK Construction Labour which investigated the current labour model and proposed actions to safeguard the industry’s future.

Following the Grenfell Tower fire, Communities Secretary Sajid Javid announced an independent review of the building regulations and fire safety. The review was led by Dame Judith Hackitt, and focussed specifically on issues related to high-rise residential buildings.

In some circumstances it may be appropriate to commission design reviews from independent client advisers or from specialist design review organisations. These reviews are sometimes referred to as design audits.

On public sector projects, the government requires that gateway reviews are carried out at key points during the development of the project. Gateway reviews are independent peer reviews carried out by a review team on behalf of the senior responsible owner. The review team then prepare a confidential review report for the senior responsible owner.

Reviews of large public projects may also be undertaken by the National Audit Office.

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