22 August 2013

Irrational numbers

The Syrian Government is refusing to allow the UN inspection team access to the site of the recent chemical weapons attack which has left as many as a thousand people dead.
The reason given is that it will distract the inspectors from their allotted task of investigating the previous alleged use of chemical weapons.
This is what is known as a rationalisation: "The offer of a plausible but specious explanation of one's behaviour".
Unfortunately, there's a lot of it about.
This example from the tender report prepared by Kinver Kreations for Mr Cathol McCosker with respect to a grant application for 25 Dimond Street Pembroke Dock is fairly typical.
Kinver Kreations explanation as to why the tender of G & G builders (Mr McCosker's "preferred contractor") was lower than the others was: "Their tender contains relatively low preliminaries: however as a large local firm this would be the area where they could keep their tender low."
For this to be valid argument two conditions must be met:
1. The other five tenderers were not "large local firms", and
2. There is some advantage, in these circumstances, in being a large local firm.
Preliminaries include items such as the provision of a cabin for the workmen, facilities for the architect, scaffolding, etc.
It is difficult to see why a large local firm would be better placed than anyone else.
However, if the large local firm knew it was going to be awarded three separate contracts in adjoining properties (25,27 and 29 Dimond Street) then it could divide the cost of preliminaries for the individual contacts by three.
Interestingly, exactly the same form of words is used in the tender report on 29 Dimond Street (the first of the three Dimond Street contracts to be awarded) though in that case G & G Builders at £183,371 were not the lowest tenderer.
Indeed the lowest price was £101,244, though that tender was invalidated because the contractor had neglected to provide a Bill of Quantities (BoQ).
The next lowest tender was for £172,370, some £11,000 cheaper than that of G & G Builders, but Kinver Kreations ruled it out because the builders price for the roofing was too low.
Fortunately, while most of the important financial information has been redacted, this unidentified builders price for roofing (£29,596) has escaped the black, felt-tipped pen.
On checking the BoQ I find that there are 218 sq m of slates on the roof and a quick calculation shows that this works out at £135 per metre.
The going rate for slating roofs is somewhere between £55 and £60 per metre, so how a price more than double that could be regarded as too low is difficult to understand.
Sounds to me like another example of rationalisation.
While on the subject of roofs, I have been taking a keen interest in another Kinver Kreations/ Cathol McCosker/G & G Builders project - the conversion of 16-19 Commercial Row Pembroke Dock into 22 flats and bedsits.
I am in a slightly stronger position here because I have a copy of the priced BoQ; obtained during the public audit inspection.
This shows that G & G priced for 427 sq metres of "Slate felt and batten, using new Spanish slates, on new felt and batten" at £98.25 per sq m = £41,821 which together with the other bits and pieces (ridge tiles, eaves courses etc) gives a total bill for roofing of £46,321 or £11,580 for each of the four properties.
In view of that figure, it is not easy to see why £29,595 should be considered too low for a single property in Dimond Street.
Indeed, there is a case to be made that, given the going rate of £55-£60 sq m, £98.25 is itself a bit tasty.
Another thing I noticed when I was taking my customary walk round Commercial Row last Sunday morning is that some of these Spanish slates seem to have weathered quite a lot in the little more than 12 months they have been on the roof.
Just goes to show that you can't beat the good old fashioned Welsh variety!
The grants situation in Pembroke Dock provides endless fascination for anyone interested in arithmetic.
Beats sudoku any day!
For instance, how do you explain the difference between 29 Dimond Street (G & G Builders) and No 31 (David Jones Construction) next door.
The basic data are 29 Dimond Street: tender £188,371; grant £81,073; commercial property space brought back into use 50 sq m.
The corresponding figures for 31 are: tender £66,485; grant £35,590; commercial floorspace brought back into use 98 sq m.
So the grant per sq metre for 29 (£1,621) is more than four times that for 31 (£363).
You might have expected that when they approved these grants the Cabinet might have sought an explanation for this wide variation.
But not a word. They just put their hands up for whatever the officers recommended.
At £282,400 per annum, plus expenses, this must be the most expensive rubber stamp this side of the Suez.

For the last three weeks Grumpette and our eldest grandson have been in Canada visiting our son and his family.
They landed at Heathrow just before noon and I am about to drive up to Swansea to meet them off the coach.
So that's it for this week.
You'll just have to make do with Jacob's ramblings on that other website

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