A leading anti-corruption investigator has told New Civil Engineer that “blind eyes” were turned in the run up to Carillion’s collapse.
Global Infrastructure Anti-Corruption Centre director Neill Stansbury said that Carillion was a “great example” of corruption within the UK construction industry, urging the government, engineering institutions and construction companies to “do more” to fight illegal and underhand practices.
Carillion collapsed in January 2018 after running up a crippling £1.5bn of debt. The Insolvency Service, Financial Reporting Council and Financial Conduct Authority have all opened investigations into Carillion, looking at the possibility of insider trading, and the role of Carillion’s auditor KPMG.
Stansbury urged the engineering industry to become “less complacent” about corruption in the industry, during the keynote address on the first day of the Global Engineering Conference hosted by ICE. Stansbury said that all areas of the industry were responsible for fighting corruption, adding that industry is currently “not doing enough”.
“We are not the leaders we think we are,” Stansbury told New Civil Engineer. “It is sad that Britain does so little to fight corruption.
“We chaired the working group, we were the secretariat for the development of ISO 37001 [the international anti-bribery standard], so why isn’t the British Government implementing it?”
He added: “We think in the UK we are immune to this sort of thing, we aren’t and Carillion is a great example,” he said. “[With less corruption] another situation like Carillion would be less likely, there is a lot of investigation to be done over Carillion, because a company doesn’t go belly-up like that unless something within the company is wrong.”
“Blind eyes have been turned at the very least.”
It is not enough to condemn corruption, and have guidelines telling members not to become involved, Stansbury told New Civil Engineer. Instead he urged institutions like the ICE to act as pressure groups.
Stansbury added: “The next step forward should be a proactive response, ICE should go to the government and say why aren’t you implementing ISO 37001? They should say we want all construction information to be published, full disclosure of contracts procurements, payments – this is taxpayer’s money and there should be no secrets.”
Stansbury noted that a greater push-back against corruption could protect the industry from another Carillion.
It is not all doom-and-gloom for the UK however, Stansbury was optimistic about the future fight against industry corruption, saying it was “absolutely feasible”.
He added: “We know exactly what needs to be done, it just requires leadership.”
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