Could the new Procurement Code generate delays, increased costs and poor quality?

24/05/2023 – ISI Ingegneria Sismica Italiana expresses concern about the developments of the new Public Contracts Code, as formulated in Legislative Decree 36/2023.

In particular, while understanding the intention well expressed in the first three articles (principle of results, principle of trust, principle of market access) on which all the rest of the Procurement CodeISI believes that some steps could generate an effect exactly opposite to the intent: delays, increased costs, poor quality of the result.

In our opinion, the critical passages are summarized below.

The existing heritage and the importance of knowledge

It is evident how the whole formulation of the code is based on the new works; in our country, however, we cannot ignore the existing building stock, its peculiarities and needs. Think, for example, of historic villages, true Italian heritage, or of all the buildings with public functions in city centres. For them, although sometimes regeneration and therefore the configuration as a “new work” is desirable, the maintenance e the intervention on the existing work.

With the new Code of contracts, the economic framework is formulated in the preliminary stages and not at the time of the final planning as in the past; this for a new work can be shared, as the uncertainties are reduced only to the design work, but on the existing one it represents an uncertainty that is difficult to manage.

The technical regulations for constructions (NTC2018) admit for interventions on the existing building a knowledge of the latter variable significantly as a function of the investigations, diagnostics and researches carried out; each level of knowledge is associated with a safety coefficient: the more you know the structure, the more you can reduce the safety coefficients to be used for checks.

On the same element, the difference between a high and a low level of knowledge affects about 35% of the effectiveness of the checks. This means that a correct knowledge of the existing structure or infrastructure, in accordance with the law, can significantly affect the final cost of the work; just as a bad initial evaluation can cause the project to change significantly with increases in costs and delays as unexpected events arise during execution.

Setting the economic framework and the expenditure items for knowledge at the outset, potentially without even having seen the work, places enormous uncertainty on the successful outcome of the design and the works, giving rise to variations, disputes, professional responsibilities of the RUP, the contracting station, the designer and the construction manager.

New Procurement Code, maintenance and absence in the cost of the work

The maintenance of the work to be carried out appears only as a document necessary for the design, but is never calculated in economic terms nor inserted within the QE economic framework.

The NTC2018 technical standard for construction uses some parameters to define the safety of a construction; one of them is the nominal life (Vn), understood as the number of years in which the structure, provided it is subject to ordinary maintenance, must be able to be used for the purpose for which it is intended. For example, a building or a bridge must have a nominal life of at least 50 years and in this period the correct usability and functionality of the work must be guaranteed through maintenance.

The work must therefore be seen in its own life cycle and its cost cannot be separated from the maintenance charges, especially in this historical period in which the contracting stations need both economic and service planning. Too many times in recent years the consequences of lack of maintenance have become clear.

Direct assignment and adequate professionalism

Direct assignment even with high thresholds, although it is understandable from the point of view of the general principles governing the code, under various aspects it cannot be shared. The main reason is that the network of technical professions has a very horizontal, non-vertical possibility of accessing the world of public works based on specific skills which, on the other hand, are increasingly decisive.

Basically, the only constraint of the turnover leads to a dangerous opening even towards professionals who do not have specific skill requirements: planning or directing the work on a new building is not the same thing as doing it on existing assets, as it appears the world of infrastructures, roads or networks is still different.

Furthermore, the problem could be accentuated in the assignment to the contracting firm with the formula of PE executive design and executionwhen upstream there is only the PFTE technical and economic feasibility project: if the latter is not drafted in a rigorous manner (and by its nature the PFTE can hardly be, especially for interventions on existing works) the way is opened to variants and disputes.

New Procurement Code and seismic design

Finally, some notes specifically regarding the approach to seismicity in our country. Article 42 also places seismic authorization under the control of verification, now delegated to the competent decentralized structures (formerly civil engineering). In this way, on the one hand, there is a risk of losing the great wealth of knowledge of the third party and superpartes control structures, on the other, especially for modest works or small contracting authorities, of entrust the verification to inadequate professionals.

Article 140 defines the emergency procedures for which the code allows for further simplifications as an exception to the ordinary procedures. It is interesting to note that these procedures can also be activated for preventive purposes against all the events referred to in article 7 of the Civil Protection Code (Legislative Decree 1 of 2 January 2018), therefore, paradoxically, also for any seismic risk reduction intervention.

Lastly, it is interesting to note that in Annex I.7, where the calculations of the structures are mentioned (article 26), only the static checks are mentioned (certainly due to an oversight) and not all that is required by the specific technical regulations for buildings (NTC2018), including the checks against seismic actions.

Source: ISI Italian Seismic Engineering

Source: Le ultime news dal mondo dell'edilizia by

*The article has been translated based on the content of Le ultime news dal mondo dell'edilizia by If there is any problem regarding the content, copyright, please leave a report below the article. We will try to process as quickly as possible to protect the rights of the author. Thank you very much!

*We just want readers to access information more quickly and easily with other multilingual content, instead of information only available in a certain language.

*We always respect the copyright of the content of the author and always include the original link of the source article.If the author disagrees, just leave the report below the article, the article will be edited or deleted at the request of the author. Thanks very much! Best regards!