Unfortunately, corrupt practices occur throughout the various construction project phases and can be perpetrated by any of the project stakeholders. This corruption is due to direct and deliberate corrupt practices as well as mismanagement. Mismanagement of construction projects occurs far too frequently. I’m sure we can all relate stories of theft, corruption, fraud, and mismanagement that occurred on a project. I’ve previously related a story of how half a million dollars of cement was stolen from one of my projects.
Whether you are a project owner, an investor, project manager or a contractor it pays to be vigilant to avoid corruption on your project. Not only does corruption result in someone realising less value, but it can also impact reputation, and even result in fines and prison time. Being vigilant together we can prevent corruption and fraud.
Corruption, fraud, and theft on construction projects can be perpetrated by:
- Pay bribes to local authorities for relaxation of zoning, or to authorities to waive permit conditions or relax conditions.
- Receive bribes from contractors to award the project to them.
- Construct projects to favour particular stakeholders (for instance their electorate), or to satisfy their egos, often disadvantaging others in the process.
- ‘Bid shop’, sharing the price of other bidders with their favoured contractor so that their favoured contractor has the opportunity to lower their price to beat the other contractors’ prices.
- Knowingly allow the project to damage the environment.
- Knowingly construct a substandard project to sell on to unsuspecting customers.
- Construct projects which blight the neighborhood and the landscape.
- Construct projects to launder the proceeds of crime.
- Don’t pay contractors and others for completed work, or deliberately withhold money for spurious reasons, or pay contractors late.
- Accept bribes from contractors in return for:
- Awarding the project to a particular contractor.
- Accepting non-compliant work.
- Approving spurious and inflated variation and progress claims.
- Pay bribes to permitting and other authorities and individuals to ‘smooth’ processes.
- Refuse to accept variation claims from the contractor which are due to the project manager’s or principle agent’s fault.
- Are lazy, or inept, resulting in:
- Them not checking and verifying that the construction work satisfies the quality requirements and standards.
- Not checking the contractor’s invoices are correct and the work has been completed.
- Poor management of the project, resulting in the project suffering delays and additional costs.
- Them agreeing the contractor’s variation claims without verifying that the contractor is entitled to the claim.
- Them not adjudicating contractors’ prices properly, which could result in a substandard contractor being appointed, or a contractor whose price has hidden additional costs.
- ‘Rig’ bids (arrange or organize) to ensure a particular contractor is awarded the project. This is done by:
- Bid shopping, where their favored contractor is given the lowest bidder’s price and told to beat it.
- Manipulating the requirements to price a project, so that the requirements favor a particular contractor and even disqualify other bidders.
- Providing the pricing documentation to their preferred contractor before it’s supplied to the other contractors, and then not allowing the other contractors sufficient time to price the project.
- Providing their favored contractor with additional information (not given to other contractors) which could allow them to submit a cheaper price.
- Invoice the owner more than they are entitled to, which could include billing for people not on the project, charging hours in excess of what was worked, and charging at higher hourly rates than was agreed in the contract document.
- Are lazy or inept, resulting in:
- Them not checking the quality of the contractor’s work.
- Them producing a poor design, which has errors, isn’t the most economical design, hasn’t considered the operating and maintenance costs, or a design that is ugly and blights the landscape.
- Designs and drawings being issued late, causing delays to the project.
- Take bribes to:
- Accept substandard work.
- To specify particular suppliers’ products.
- Where they are paid in accordance to the value of the finished project, they deliberately specify more expensive products or design structures that are more complex or require more material to construct, which increases the cost of the project and thus their fee.
- When they are paid by the hours spent on the project, bill for hours that they weren’t working on the project, or for people who didn’t work on the project, or they charge higher hourly rates than they should have or add in additional charges which aren’t legitimate.
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