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War Economy

Weaknesses in Other Contracts

Weaknesses in Other Contracts

Reference was made also to unduly high prices for construction of Army huts. ‘A very large contract for the construction of some 8,500 Army huts had been arranged at a fixed price per hut, but information obtained by the Audit Office indicated that such price was excessive. Treasury and Audit then made an investigation, with a result that a saving of some £30,000 was effected.’

Finally, one finds in the Controller and Auditor-General's 1943 report a reference to even further deviations from normal contract methods, with the emergence of oral contracts. ‘There have been a few instances during the year of urgent defence construction works being carried out on oral instructions without pre-arranged basis of remuneration or definite limit on the extent of the work to be done, and without making provision for inspection of the work as it proceeded. Such circumstances are liable to encourage extravagant claims, to lead to unnecessary work being carried out, and to render difficult the production of satisfactory certificates as to what actually was done.’

Maximum pressure had been put on the construction industry in 1942–43, and an unbelievably high output had been achieved. The accelerated defence works programme to meet the threat of Japanese invasion, and the rush to provide camps and hospitals for American forces which first arrived in June 1942, made speed, for a time, the only important consideration.

page 354

In this emergency, James Fletcher was not the man to be deterred by the shortcomings of oral contracts. In July 1942 he was reported as saying:1

‘I am no lover of red tape. There is a job to be done quickly. I have no big office staff—but it is most efficient. Hours, days, weeks, perhaps months, are saved by use of the telephone or the telegraph office.’

1 New Zealand Truth, 8 July 1942.