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Corruption in Construction: What can be done?

Tony Burton

Construction Industry Council (CIC) Deputy Chairman and G&T Senior Partner 

 

Corruption has always been a perceived problem in the construction industry, but recently, and with the event of the Bribery Act, it has come more to the forefront of industry minds and the concern over what to do it about it is prevalent.

In September last year, the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) released their second report exploring this issue and determined that 49% of industry professionals believe that corruption is either fairly or extremely common in the UK. The report also concluded that 50% of people feel that the UK construction industry is not doing enough to prevent corruption. Comments from respondents indicate that the majority of those working in the industry are not happy with the current situation and would like to see better measures in place.

Whilst this report sheds light into perceptions and reasons for fraudulent activity, it doesn’t cover every base. In my opinion, the 49% that believes corruption is common should also have been asked if they had any hard evidence because being able to recognise it, or prove it, is a crucial part of this whole debate.

One of the big problems the industry faces is that UK law enforcement agencies have an acknowledged lack of information on activity in the construction industry.

Shortly after the CIOB report was published, I was asked by The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) to meet with two officers from the National Crime Agency (NCA) as they too were conducting research into economic crime in our industry and wanted to know more. During my two hour interview I described to them how the industry works, areas where it is vulnerable, and where in the construction process I believe corrupt activity might occur.

The NCA taking an interest is a positive step, but the questions remains: what can be done to tackle corruption in construction and for the industry to better protect itself?

Next month, in my capacity as CIC Deputy Chairman and as a direct result of interest from CIC members following my meeting with the NCA, I will be chairing a workshop that will cover issues such as what corruption is and how it can be recognised and how professionals can combat corruption and fraud. We will aim to identify where the opportunities for corruption are and seek advice from bodies such as CIOB, the NCA, and the Serious Fraud Office (SFO). Key to this workshop will be the two-way dialogue we can get going with such agencies, so that we can educate them about our world as well as them educating us.

This session will, I believe, be a very serious first step in getting on top of this problem once and for all.

If you have any thoughts or opinions about corruption in construction, please contact CIC Policy & Public Affairs Officer Ciaran Molloy

Contributor: Tony Burton is Deputy Chairman of the Construction Industry Council and Senior Partner at Gardiner and Theobald LLP. For more information on Tony and Gardiner & Theobald visit http://www.gardiner.com/

Tags: Corruption, G&T, Gardiner & Theobald, CIC, Chairman, blog