Corruption rife in UK construction, say senior builders

No prosecutions under anti-bribery law though more than a third said they had been offered inducements


Nearly half of senior British construction executives believe corruption is rife in the industry, according to a survey by the British Chartered Institute of Building.

More than a third said they had been offered a bribe or an incentive to offer business, while 38 per cent said they have seen evidence of cartels.

Seven hundred executives were surveyed by the institute, said Michael Brown, its deputy chief executive. “Cultural practices and the consequences of the recession have placed a greater strain on companies to sometimes engage in adverse practices as a survival mechanism.”

The European Commission believes corruption in construction costs €120 billion a year, while globally it is put at over €2 trillion.

Corruption in Britain is most likely to occur when contractors are bidding for work, although four in 10 British executives say it occurs at all stages during contracts.

Anti-bribery legislation passed in 2010 has done little to stem the tide of corruption, and no prosecutions have taken place.

Saying corruption is common place, Graham Hand of the UK Anti-Corruption Forum said police and prosecutors “must act against companies that break the law”.

In 2009, more than 100 firms in England were collectively fined nearly £130 million for fixing contract prices, although two years later the fines imposed on six of the biggest firms were cut from £42 million to just over £4 million.

Economic woes are reportedly tempting some into acting corruptly. Since 2011, nearly 6,000 UK construction firms have gone bust .

The institute said some smaller operations evade taxes or hire illegal immigrants, while larger firms “could collude with one another”, pricing competitors out of projects.