A study carried out as part of a global effort to reduce construction industry corruption has criticised a lack of transparency in the UK’s public sector procurement process.
Globally, corruption in the construction industry has been estimated to cost society about £250bn per year. As well as the monetary cost, corruption and a lack of contract transparency frequently results in dangerous and defective infrastructure.
The UK pilot of the Construction Sector Transparency Initiative (CoST), managed by the ICE, reviewed information on projects from four public sector bodies - Broadland Housing Association, Durham County Council, the Highways Agency and the Environment Agency.
The study found that little information is disclosed to the public about what construction is procured, the purpose of that procurement, or the costs involved.
An overwhelming majority of respondents surveyed, almost 90%, felt that disclosure of this information would improve the transparency of publicly financed construction projects and ultimately help drive down costs.
International development secretary Andrew Mitchell said that corruption and mismanagement on construction projects in the developing world needed to be highlighted in particular.
“By encouraging transparency, CoST is playing a vital role in building a safer, more efficient construction sector in developing and developed countries,” he said.
Chairman of the group which led the UK pilot Bob McKittrick agreed, adding that there are a multitude of examples internationally where a lack of transparency and accountability has lead to disastrous consequences.
“The CoST project aims to ensure that governments and taxpayers receive value for the public projects which they commission, and that they “get what they pay for”.
CoST is an international partnership scheme supported by the UK Department for International Development (DFID) and the World Bank which has been piloted in seven countries: Ethiopia, Malawi, Philippines, Tanzania, the United Kingdom, Vietnam and Zambia.