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SEC Group backs creation of regulatory authority for UK construction

Organisation proposes forming statutory authority to oversee public sector construction with the aim of tackling issues such as supply chain abuse

A resourced regulatory authority than can ensure best practice is being delivered on public sector construction projects should be established in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire and Carillion’s collapse, the Chair of the Specialist Engineering Contractors’ (SEC) Group has argued.

Trevor Hursthouse has used the occasion of the organisation’s 25th anniversary to call for the formation of a statutory authority to regulate construction work in light of the challenges it faces.

He said, “In the last 2 years there has been an outpouring of reports on construction (most generated by the Grenfell tragedy and the Carillion collapse) which have all come to similar conclusions. Past evidence suggests that these are unlikely to lead to significant improvement.”

“What is now required is a properly resourced regulatory authority for construction that steers the industry in the direction of best practice delivery.”

Mr Hursthouse has proposed a Construction and Infrastructure Authority that would assume oversight of public sector construction procurement and supply chains to try and challenge bad practice, as well as set out ways of improving work with industry. This would include SMEs.

SEC Group said that the organisation should be set up to replicate some of the powers of existing regulatory authorities that oversee water, telecoms and energy resources that were formerly in public ownership. It should also parallel the work of organisations such as the Competition and Markets Authority, as well as the Financial Conduct Authority.

Mr Hursthouse said the suggested remit of any eventual statutory construction regulator should focus on improving industry standards and technical capabilities through programmes that can accredit competent businesses, as well as focusing on digital transformation challenges.

The proposed body should also ensure overall socio-economic benefit is being realised through public sector procurement and that supply chain abuse is tackled.

Although focused on the public sector, SEC Group suggested that the proposed authority could also play an advisory role for the private construction sector.

The organisation added, “In the public sector it would have power to impose penalties on public bodies for poor practice or failure to comply with statutory responsibilities. Such power could also extend to excluding suppliers from public procurement for poor performance including abuse of supply chains.”

Mr Hursthouse cited the work of the Building and Construction Authority in Singapore that serves as a government agency that he argued had created a more efficient industry capable of delivering more projects safely and on time.

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