This article first appeared in Revista Capital on October 17, 2018.
Recently, the Chilean Chamber of Construction (CCHhC) proposed a series of measures to optimize the processes related to the contracting of public works. A national newspaper addressed in its editorial how the guild’s proposals would help improve processes and how they could be even more efficient, suggesting that they include encouraging transparency.
While much is said about how this proposal could improve the development of projects including a considerable reduction in terms of bureaucracy, it is necessary that the guild takes advantage of this idea and dares to improve one of the Achilles heels of the industry: transparency. We have had enough with the international experience, which even impacted a Chilean case: the Chachao bridge, a work in which the company OAS participated, which went bankrupt and was involved in corruption cases in Latin America.
In Chile, multiple bids are closed with companies that work in order, however, many times they may have a positive or null national record, while in other countries they leave much to be desired. Although in Chile there are efforts to adhere to good practices, not all national companies strive to do so. What is more, the so-called “culture of doing things well” is not as well implemented as we would like it to be. It is a matter of looking around the neighborhood to realize that some businessmen validate corruption when awarding business because they believe that they have no other way to be competitive since according to the “everyone does it that way”.
Companies must understand that who they do business with also matters. A clear example of this is Graña y Montero, where the former president of the company, José Graña Miró, was arrested – and later released – because they signed contracts with Odebrecht when it was an open secret that the latter won the bids through bribes.
As a lesson learned, it is essential that national guilds – not only the CChC -, the public sector, and municipalities – incorporate pro-transparency measures, as well as make sure who is behind the companies with which they close bids and other business deals.
I recently spoke at a seminar in Colombia, where companies in the energy sector formed a group called Collective Action in the Electricity Sector to promote ethical practices, imposing significant sanctions if a company in the group commits corruption.
I applaud this type of initiative, which should be copied in Chile. I invite the unions to act together, to have what I call a “positive collusion” where all sectors could do something big to isolate the corrupt from the system. There is nothing more effective against malpractice than peer sanction.
At the end of the day, episodes like this make us realize that we can all be part of the solution.
By Susana Sierra