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Brown, J and Loosemore, M (2015) Behavioural factors influencing corrupt action in the Australian construction industry. Engineering, Construction and Architectural Management, 22(04), 372-89.

  • Type: Journal Article
  • Keywords: Australia; culture; ethics; organizational culture; industry; management; corrupt action
  • URL: https://doi.org/10.1108/ECAM-03-2015-0034
  • Abstract:
    Purpose - The purpose of this paper is to explore behavioural factors which are perceived to influence corrupt action in the Australian construction industry. Design/methodology/approach - The paper draw on Rabl and Kühlmann’s Model of a corrupt action and the results of face-to-face interviews with 23 people working in the Australian construction industry. Findings - The results suggest that corruption is ambiguously defined yet perceived to be very common and primarily associated with personal gain rather than breaking the law. The main forms of corruption were identified as kickbacks, fraud and bribery and this behaviour is perceived to be driven by high goal feasibility, by conducive attitudes and supportive subjective norms and by high perceived behavioural control over being caught. Research limitations/implications - The research is based on a relatively small sample of 23 respondents and the use of snowball sampling may have meant that the respondents would tend to present a particular view of the industry. It is also important to point out that this research took place within a highly politicised environment coinciding the with launch of the third Royal Commission into corruption in the construction industry and is based on the respondent’s perceptions of corruption rather than incontrovertible evidence of corruption in practice. Nevertheless, given the care the authors took to avoid these biases, it does provide a useful window in the incidence and types of corruption in construction and the behavioural factors that might influence it. Practical implications - In terms of tackling corruption, it is recommended that greater attention be given to exploring the culture of the industry which appears to normalise corrupt behaviour and to the hidden informal “institutions” which appear to be undermining the many formal policies and procedures which have been put in place to tackle corruption in the construction industry. Social implications - The global construction industry has been identified by Transparency International as the most bribery-prone of 19 industries it rated. The cost is huge with scarce resources being diverted from much needed urban regeneration, community concerns about development being ignored, individual human rights being abused, productivity and efficiency being compromised and important environments, cultures and heritage being destroyed. In Australia, concerns about corruption in the construction industry have led to an unprecedented three Royal Commissions which have argued that there is a culture which encourages, accepts and rewards this behaviour. Originality/value - By using Rabl and Kühlmann’s Theory of a corrupt action this paper throws new light on how corruption is defined by members of the construction industry. The findings suggest that while formal technical and procedural solutions to corruption are important in addressing corruption they are likely to be undermined by strong cultures and informal institutions which dictate the “rules of the game” on the ground. There is a clear need to better understand how these informal institutions work to constrain formal rules devised to bring about reform.