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The industry view: Graham Watts, chief executive CIC

CORRUPTION

'IT'S GREAT that the CIOB has done this.

I can't say I'm really surprised by the figures.

I even expected some of them to be higher, ' says Mr Watts.

'But I don't think that construction is much worse than other sectors. It's a problem that runs through society.

'I've worked in the sector for 30 years, and the only bribe I was offered was from a publishing company - money in a brown paper envelope - if I sent some business their way. I felt extremely uncomfortable and reported it immediately. But even then, I wasn't sure whom to turn to.

'I recently needed some work done on my house - an insurance claim for burst pipes.

The insurance firm, a reputable company, asked me to get quotes. So I went to bona fide respectable firms, FMB members.

'But the insurance company then said the quotes were too high and asked me to go back to lesser qualified companies, even indicating the kind of price it was willing to pay. This is cor rupt ion at Mickey Mouse level, but it indicates the problems in society.

'The boundaries of what is correct and what is cor rupt have become blu r red over recent years, and the Government is setting a bad example.

'Take John Prescott's stay at the ranch of US billionaire Philip Anschutz, who also happens to own the Millennium Dome.

'If the deputy prime minister accepts lavish hospitality and gifts - if that is not seen as corrupt by Government leaders - then it spills down onto all levels in society.

'People need to be intelligent about this.

We are flooded with offers in our normal lives - such as switching mortgages and getting a cash gift. But some people can't differentiate between that and what goes on professionally.

'Things go in cycles. If you go back 30 years, industry was continually talking about ethical behaviour. It was probably still reeling from a massive court case in the 1960s, in which architect John Poulson and councillor T Dan Smith were jailed for corrupt practices.

'It cast a big shadow over the industry.

And the upshot of it was that people started forming heavily contractual relationships, which arguably turned industry more adversarial.

'For example, even in the 1980s an arch itect couldn't hold any position or role in a contracting company. This has now been relaxed as Latham and Egan have started unpicking the adversarial relationships and we're moving towards integration. But there is a danger, as relationships change, that if we don't take any warning signs of corrupt practice seriously, industry could be moving into another high-profile case.'