Acting in response to a task force recommendation, members of the Association of Consulting Engineering Companies-Canada (ACEC) have adopted a statement of principles and policies pertaining to business integrity and transparency.
"(The underlining philosophy is) it isn't enough to act with integrity," said association president John Gamble. "You also need to be seen to do so."
The principles and policies are based in part upon guidelines for integrity management in the consulting industry published by the International Federation of Consulting Engineers (FIDIC).
ACEC is a member of the Geneva-headquartered organization, which represents national associations of consulting engineers in close to 100 countries worldwide.
In an interview, Gamble said adoption of the statement, a membership-driven move, brings ACEC in line with FIDIC policies "while also providing moral support" to the organization in its efforts to combat corruption at a global level.
ACEC and FIDIC both advocate the following principle:
"The consulting engineering sector has zero tolerance towards bribery, extortion, coercion, fraud, collusion, conflict of interest and activities that may attempt to influence the selection or compensation of the company or affect its impartial judgement."
In keeping with this principle, ACEC recommends in part that member firms:
— Develop and implement their own integrity management systems and best practices focusing on the prevention of corruption, fraud, collusion and conflict of interest;
— Recognize that the system must demonstrate the commitment of senior management to integrity and should involve the entire staff;
— Recommend to their clients the most appropriate procurement process or delivery system, consistent with the demands of the project;
— Notify clients and/or relevant project funding or delivery agencies of any irregularities in procurement;
— Ensure their employees and agents are aware of local laws regarding corruption and promptly report criminal behaviour to the proper authorities.
"I think there is an appetite to undertake these measures," Gamble said. "In fact, I'd say that most of the major players in Canada, particularly those that do work internationally or are publicly traded, have already adopted best practices (in this realm)."
Canada currently ranks 5th in the world, on a per capita basis, in terms of exports of engineering services.
ACEC has pledged to work with its member associations across Canada in assisting firms in developing appropriate integrity management systems and best practices, while recognizing that the required level of detail and complexity may vary among firms.
"There is an opportunity for ACEC, working with our member organizations, to perhaps create some tools that can be used by small and medium-sized enterprises as needed," Gamble said.
To some degree, he said, "the elephant in the room" is the corruption inquiry currently being conducted by the Charbonneau Commission in Quebec.
"But the number of individuals from our industry who have been implicated could fit into an elevator."
The commission broke for the summer in late June.
Gamble said it is important to note "that while a lot of what you hear about corruption, both domestically and internationally, focuses on the service providers, the demand side (clients) also needs to be dealt with. "He who has the gold makes the rules."
The statement was unanimously adopted by ACEC members at the association's annual general meeting in Winnipeg on June 20.
Principles were recommended by a task force headed by outgoing association chair Jason Mewis.
ACEC represents close to 500 independent consulting engineering firms across the country.