Rooting out impunity and strengthening integrity in the construction sector: CoST at IACC 2015
On 3 September 2015 at the 16th International Anti-Corruption Conference (IACC) in Putrajaya, Malysia, CoST hosted a panel debate entitled ‘Rooting out impunity and strengthening integrity in the construction sector’.
Featuring key leaders from industry, government and civil society, including Robert Card (SNC Lavalin Group) and Marcela Rozo (World Bank), the panel explored the factors giving rise to impunity in the construction sector and discussed practical measures aimed at overcoming them. The panel agreed that corruption in infrastructure not only wastes money but costs lives. Poorly constructed buildings cause ill health and in extreme cases, such as collapse, injury and death. Wastage results in poor infrastructure and services, impacting disproportionately on poor and marginalised people.
The panel debate identified three primary causes for corruption: lack of transparency; incentives for bad behaviour; and the nature of the supply chain in that it is long and complicated. These factors provide many opportunities to build in corrupt practices, highlighting that transparency is key to tackling the issue. Best practices from CoST national programmes were shared to highlight the initiative’s positive impact in engaging citizens and improving access to information and evidence.
The panel argued that companies should enter markets and support the improvement of practices where corruption is seen as rife, instead of withdrawing from these ‘difficult’ countries. Furthermore, it was seen as crucial to connect the data across agencies and project cycles. Practical suggestions arising from the debate included: actively engaging HR to ensure that individuals within their own companies are not shielded from law enforcement; and establishing a database of companies that have been convicted of corruption or bribery from public procurement.
Key recommendations that emerged from the panel are:
- Ensure transparency in all construction projects
- Empower citizens so that they know and understand what is happening on projects (in their locality and nationally)
- Incentives are needed to drive clean governments, clean companies and clean practices.
- All stakeholders must act collectively to combat corruption e.g. sharing information to enable cross-debarment across countries. Other influential agencies like the credit rating agencies should come out more strongly on this topic to incentivise better behaviour.
- Financial settlements achieved through law enforcement (a UK company paying a fine to the UK national authority) is needed but victims of corruption (where the act occurred) also need to be compensated e.g. by ensuring the promised infrastructure is delivered.
The full report from ‘Rooting out impunity and strengthening integrity in the construction sector’is available here.