25 October 2006 | Helen Gilbert
The government has been urged to do more to tackle corruption in the UK construction industry after a survey revealed more than a third of the sector's employees have been offered bribes.
The Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) study, Corruption in the UK Construction Industry, was based on responses from 1,404 people working in the field.
More than 50 per cent of respondents felt corruption was either extremely or fairly common and 41 per cent admitted to being offered bribes. Sleaze in the UK industry is estimated to cost up to £3.75 billion a year.
The report also revealed differences in perception of how corrupt certain practices were deemed to be. Cover pricing - when companies make uncompetitive bids for work to ensure they do not win a deal - was seen as extremely corrupt by 18 per cent of respondents, yet 37 per cent felt it was simply part of the way the industry operates.
"There seems to be a perception that if a company declines to bid for a contract, it may affect the likelihood of that client inviting them to tender for other work in the future," the report said.
The altering of day-work sheets was another theme to emerge. Respondents described situations where they had either witnessed extra hours or materials being added to sheets or had been asked to sign off altered sheets.
A similar situation appears to be occurring with inflated invoicing or claims for extra costs, while other issues include the theft of materials from sites, leaking of information to friends and family enabling them to put in the most competitive quote and refusal to consider more than one subcontractor for work.
"There needs to be more agreement on what constitutes corruption in order to begin enforcing anti-corruption measures," the CIOB said. "Clear codes of ethical conduct must be widely communicated to the construction industry and implemented at all levels."
* An Overseas Bribery and Corruption Unit has been set up investigate corrupt practices in the UK and overseas. The City of London Police, which has been awarded £870,000 a year for three years by the Department for International Development, will employ 10 officers to investigate overseas cases where they involve UK companies or individuals, with a view to prosecution. The unit is expected to become operational in November and one of its first tasks will be to investigate allegations claiming 10 UK companies have bribed overseas officials to win contracts.