Webinar shines light on integrity in the face of conflict and corruption

12 Apr 2022

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Global construction and infrastructure sector professionals gathered online at a webinar on 12 April 2022 to discuss the topical issue of Integrity in Infrastructure Delivery during Times of Corruption and Conflict at the latest event in FIDIC’s ongoing webinar series.

Around 400 industry professionals attended the webinar, which was organised by FIDIC’s Integrity Management Committee and moderated by the chair of the committee, Richard Stump. Speakers at the event included Roberto de Michele, division chief, innovation for citizen services at the Inter-American Development Bank (USA), Tim Pence, owner, smalltruths consulting (Australia), Hani Sahooly, president and CEO, HS Group (Canada/Yemen), Cosmin Tobolcea, managing director of Protoby (Romania) and Adam Bialachowski, CEO of Vintage Consulting (Poland).

Introducing the webinar, FIDIC president Tony Barry highlighted that one of FIDIC’s key objectives was to combat bribery and corruption in the infrastructure sector, so it was very appropriate that this webinar had been organised to discuss the key issues. “Poorer people in our world are deprived of so many opportunities due to corruption. We need better governance in organisations to build integrity across the industry, clear leadership and an ongoing culture of intolerance to corruption. We cannot walk away from this challenge and we need to call out corrupt practices wherever and whenever they arise.”
Opening the webinar, Richard Stump said that, given ongoing recent events, the webinar had shifted its focus to also look at infrastructure delivery during conflict situations.

Roberto de Michele, division chief, innovation for citizen services at the Inter-American Development Bank, said that when working in a crisis or conflict situation there was always a huge tension between getting things done quickly and getting things done right. “At the Inter-American Development Bank, we believe strongly in promoting transparency. Corruption destroys jobs, business sectors and economies and we have seen this in many places around the world.” De Michele also said that the IDB was working with organisations in the private sector in Peru to improve their transparency and governance, which was so important in tackling corruption at source. “It’s very important that everybody steps up to the plate on this issue,” he said.

Tim Pence, owner at smalltruths consulting, highlighted the issue of ‘psychological safety’ and the climate in organisations where people felt able to speak up and speak out. “Integrity requires a voice and a voice and requires safety,” Pence said. “Acting with integrity means speaking out against dishonesty and corruption but speaking out is no easy thing. Humans have evolved a strong bias for self-preservation when we interact with other humans,” he said. Pence also explained that people had evolved to have circuity that assesses five key social domains - status, certainty, autonomy, relatedness and fairness and before speaking out on issues people would typically assess any risk to their worth or status and their relation to their ‘tribe’. Speaking up against corruption involved a risk to status and relationship while silence provides the perception of safety, Pence said, and that is why people often don’t speak up when they should. It was therefore incumbent on leaders not to take voice for granted and they must create the conditions which will give voice to uncomfortable messages.

Hani Sahooly, president and CEO, HS Group, highlighted some of his experiences of working in a conflict situation in Yemen. “In Yemen, people have developed smarter ways of being corrupt. We have faced the challenge of dealing with different methods of corruption on projects and often the lack of important information being given to consultants is an additional challenge for us,” Sahooly said. The direct signing of contracts with international funding organisations was one way of trying to circumnavigate corrupt practices and Sahooly said that his firm was working in such a way on a number of projects.

Cosmin Tobolcea, managing director of Protoby, offered his thoughts and experiences on working in Eastern Europe. Being so close to war-torn Ukraine, the conflict there has had a profound effect on people in his country, he said. Tobolcea spoke warmly of the response of the Romanian people and the consultancy industry in supporting the people of Ukraine. He said that, in time, the thoughts of people in the industry would turn to the reconstruction effort. The construction industry would play a key role in that effort and the hope would be that European procurement rules would guard against the potential for corrupt practices. “The integrity of the public procurement process is very much related to the quality of the people involved in that process,” Tobolcea said, and there would be challenges for consultants to deliver with integrity. It was also important, he said, to ensure that local people were involved in the reconstruction effort in order to build much-needed capacity.

The final speaker, Adam Bialachowski, CEO of Vintage Consulting, gave some fascinating insights from his experiences of working in Ukraine. “Integrity and trust have always been a key part of our work in Ukraine. We did not expect the war to happen and it took everyone by surprise. We are offering support to our partners and employees still in the Ukraine and are having to get involved in things that we could never have anticipated,” he said. Bialachowski reported that although all his current contracts in Ukraine were currently suspended under ‘force majeure’, his firm was trying to coordinate work in-country on bridge completion to facilitate safe refugee travel corridors. “Loyalty and solidarity are important in our culture and the support we are giving will not go unmentioned. It is the right thing to do from a humanitarian perspective and also a business one,” he said.

Summing up the event, Tony Barry said that it was crucial for people to be placed in a position where they could act with integrity. “This is a leadership issue and as leaders we have a duty to share our knowledge, build awareness and resilience amongst our people. We need to continue to work on this in order to effectively combat the scourge of corruption,” said Barry.

The next FIDIC webinar is organised by FIDIC’s Risk, Liability and Quality Committee and will be looking at the key issue of “Essential requirements for managing contractual risk”. Speakers at the webinar will include leading risk contractual and insurance experts, as well as clients that use and are familiar with FIDIC contracts. If you want to improve your management of contractual risk then you need to attend this webinar.

Click here for full details and to book a free place at this webinar.

View the full webinar recording below.

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