It’s no secret that construction in New York City has had its fair share of controversy over the years. Most recently in the 1980s, mafiosos oversaw much of the city’s booming construction projects by charging a special fee for anyone who wanted to assemble upwards. The mafia controlled the materials to build by controlling the unions and controlled the permits to build by having the right ear of prominent politicians. Even famous real estate tycoons like former President Donald J. Trump had to squabble and play the game in order to get certain construction projects approved. Eventually, the mafia died out in relevance, and much-needed regulations were set in place. So what happened since then?
It became conspicuously commonplace. The American Society of Civil Engineers revealed that corruption makes up over $300 billion of the global construction market every single year. New York City authorities have become increasingly involved in digging out the back-door schemes that seem to have taken over ethical business practices in construction. Several allegations have been made over the past few years of taking bribes and kickbacks from subcontractors in exchange for very lucrative contracts. Building owners are usually not very familiar with construction resources and costs for things like labour, taxes, and permits. This is especially for bigger size projects like ones that include cranes. It opens a very wide gap for fraud.
Workers can sometimes get caught in between these types of business fiascos since their construction injuries can cause major a major blow to a company’s reputation. Luckily it’s harder today to cover up for a major death or injury on a site, but businessmen do their best to make sure that media coverage of any wrongdoing is covered up as much as possible.
Union labours, in particular, have come under scrutiny for claims that their workers are constantly overbilled for work that never actually exists. Moreover, senior workers who get paid more often add hours to their payroll for minimal tasks that usually have nothing to do with the project itself. Instead of focusing on worker safety conditions, along with many other responsibilities, these duties can be easily neglected with no accountability in sight.
Believe it or not, this can have a devastating effect on the economy. Simply put, everything is over-promised and under-delivered. For example, you agree to finance the construction of a brand new building. Halfway through the project, it turns out that the total budget is already wiped out and you have to invest a lot more than you initially agreed to. If you pull the plug, everything you have already invested goes to waste, so you are left with no choice then to yield and pay up. Depending on their involvement, construction and engineering companies can suffer too, since it costs them valuable time and money for tools. So in essence, corruption hits the ambitious and oblivious white-collar businessman as well as the blue-collar hard worker.
There isn’t anyone way to stop corruption in construction. It is undoubtedly the authorities’ job to monitor and stop wrongdoing, but the industry is too big for most police to handle all at once. There has to be a collaborative effort to engage in anti-corruption practices, which starts with the worker and reaches a company’s head. Strikes and protests can be very hurtful for a construction project, so as long as corruption is made aware of those working on the project, fighting these injustices is also a very frontline solution. One step at a time, with everyone’s participation, and corruption can be eradicated once and for all.