The projects near completion, costs have peaked, and the Certifier is insisting on minute detailed compliance and Alternative Solutions report from in-house consultants. What’s going on? Is it a corrupt PCA?
Corrupt PCA, Buildng Certifier Access Consultant
A building Certifier/ Surveyor, Principle Certifying Authority (PCA) engage in corrupt conduct when they;
- improperly uses the knowledge, power or resources of their position for personal gain or the advantage of others.
- a public official dishonestly exercises his official functions in a partial manner and breaches public trust.
An example is when a PCA / Certifier refers the client or builder for a supposed second opinion or Alternate Solutions reporting to another office within the same firm, or to another firm, which there is an informal referral arrangement with.
This is the most common and wide spread form of corruption in the building certification industry. We’re often asked to quote on projects where the engaged Building Certifier is also providing a quote for Access Consulting services.
On at least one project the client advised us that we were the lowest price but the engaged Certifier told them “they would have more luck if the report was done in house”.
When an Alternate or Performance Based Solution/ Design Brief is prepared in-house, by the same firm that is certifying the project, then there is both a conflict-of-interest, and corruption for personal gain. The first is reportable to the Building Professionals Board / Building Commission, and the later is to ICAC. Both carry criminal sanctions.
Another subtler but equally wide spread form of corruption within the approvals process is nonfeasance, misfeasance, malfeasance, oppression, extortion or imposition.
What does this mean?
Malfeasance, is the performance by a public official of an act that is legally unjustified, harmful, or contrary to law
An example is when a building certifier requires a builder to comply with a condition that is unjustifiable and beyond what is legally required. When a certifier insists on compliance with a standard such as AS 1428 series, they are generally acting beyond the law.
The Environmental Protection Act (EPA) and Regulations in each State require that building works comply with the BCA Performance Requirements.
The Deemed to Satisfy (D-t-S) provision of the BCA and the Australian Standards (AS) are a guide to meeting the Performance Requirements, but are not EPA law.
Reasons why a certifier might impose D-t-S and AS conditions on builder?
For the greater part its expedience and to secure themselves against complaint, but a builder needs to be sure that the inspector isn’t raising issues just to insist on additional site visits, or to refer matters for alternate solutions within the same or a partner firm of certifiers. Again, this raises a conflict of interest and corruption for personal gain.
Imposing Australian Standards is incredibly costly as standards contain legacy issues, poor version control, and inevitable conflict and ambiguity with head documents.
Corruption is an inefficient way to do business. Doing a good honest job is a more efficient way to do business.
What do you do when a Building Certifier asks for an in-house Alternate Solution report?
Don’t entertain corruption. Always go with an independent expert. If they up-sell once, then they will do it again and again, its slows progress and costs money.
Should you Complain?
State and Territory Building Commissions or Building Professionals Boards handle complaints against Public and Private Certifiers, corrupt PCA’s. The NSW BPB publishes a list of disciplined Certifiers, here, yet this doesn’t imply corrupt PCA behaviour per se, only that the complaints process is open and functioning.
It is a criminal offence for a building certifier to stay quiet if they know or aught to know of other corrupt PCA activity. The problem is its so widespread, i.e. everyones doing it, so it must be OK.
In many cases, its up to the individual builder. Its easier to stamp-out corrupt PCA behaviour at the outset than to lodge a complaint.
Complaining is obviously going to take time and potentially cause project delays towards Occupancy stage, when the stakes are high, and this is where they’ve got you!
To vent frustration got to:
Transparency International: http://www.transparency.org/
Anti Corruption Org: http://www.anticorruptionday.org/
Independent Commission against Corruption: http://www.icac.nsw.gov.au/