The Specialist Engineering Contractors’ Group (SEC Group) has called on the government to introduce a regulatory authority that oversees construction and ensure that the supply chain, from clients to SMEs, performs to the highest standards.

Speaking at the 25thAnniversary of the SEC Group chairman, Trevor Hursthouse OBE, called for the setting up of a statutory authority to regulate industry practice.  He said: “In the last two 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 evidences 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.”

SEC Group is proposing the setting up of a Construction and Infrastructure Authority.  Such an Authority would replicate some of the powers associated with the regulatory authorities for sectors such as water, energy, telecoms and rail which were formerly in public ownership and the other authorities promoting best practice in their respective areas such as the Competition and Markets Authority and Financial Conduct Authority.

The remit of a Construction and Infrastructure Authority would include:

  • oversight of the procurement practices of public bodies through challenging bad practice and highlighting strategies to deliver projects collaboratively with industry;
  • ensuring the socio-economic benefits of public sector procurement are being delivered;
  • intervening in cases of supply chain abuse;
  • promoting greater SME engagement with the procurement process;
  • raising industry standards of technical capability through promotion of schemes for accrediting competent businesses;
  • driving the digital agenda for construction.

A Construction and Infrastructure Authority would also have power to act in an advisory capacity for private sector construction.  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 indicated that this was a successful initiative and does not hinder market activity. He said: “For almost 20 years Singaporean construction has benefited from its Building and Construction Authority – a government agency – which has created a more efficient industry in Singapore that prides itself on being able to consistently deliver projects safely and within time and budget.”