Quebec Construction Association’s Integrity Initiative

Collective Action for Integrity in Quebec's Construction Industry

Crisis in the construction industry in Quebec has resulted in negative fallout that has been manifest through an increase in red tape for obtaining contracts, difficulties satisfying new requirements imposed because of the crisis, more obstacles to forming partnerships to work on the same project, and loss of reputation. The commission of Inquiry on the Awarding and Management of Public Contracts in the Construction Industry (the “Charbonneau Commission”), created with the stated purpose of unearthing evidence, exposing corruption and collusion strategies, protecting witnesses and victims, and ensuring better practices in the future, ” has been meeting in Quebec since 2011 and is due to table its final report in April 2015. Against this backdrop, the Association de la construction du Québec (ACQ) has sought to take some proactive steps to fight corruption in the construction industry.

In February 2013, a mandate was conferred to the research center CIRANO to propose concrete measures to help:

  • Promote ethics and integrity within the industry
  • Allow entrepreneurs having adopted ethical practices to clearly signal that fact to the public
  • Improve transparency
  • Restore and shore up the confidence of all stakeholders in the construction industry.

The main objectives of this study were to:

  • Propose a collective action model to combat corruption in Quebec’s construction industry that reflects the unique features of this industry, the regulatory environment, and the various stakeholders
  • Define the structure and components of the integrity program in terms of organization and delivery and the responsibilities of the various participating entities.

The proposal for an integrity program for construction firms in Quebec seeks to apply a collective model that in its development has had special attention given to the socio‐political context, existing collective action models, the specific characteristics of the construction firms belonging to ACQ and, finally, opinions expressed by the entrepreneurs. Inspired in part by the Bavarian construction industry federation’s EMB Program which has been implemented in Bavaria and throughout Germany, the proposed integrity program is based on the following seven elements:

  1. Voluntary participation: each firm will be free to decide whether to participate.
  2. A long-term program
  3. A three-phase application and accreditation process. Whereby any firm wishing to participate in the program must go through each of the following three phases:
    1. Phase 1: Application for accreditation
    2. Phase 2: Assessment process
    3. Phase 3: Accreditation and renewal process (a certification process could be set up during a later phase)
  4. Identification of the participating firms by means of a logo - each firm having been accredited by the integrity program would be authorized to use a logo designed specifically for that purpose. The logo would certify that the firm complies with the highest standards of ethics and integrity.
  5. Training and support program: all training and support programs required for the accreditation process could be provided within the existing structure of the ACQ’s cooperative training program.
  6. Accreditation by an external body: An external body should administer the critical phases of the program (accreditation, auditing, and renewals) in a fashion that is totally independent of the structure of the ACQ in order to safeguard the integrity and credibility of the process.
  7. Continuous improvement program: This program should be designed to accommodate regular improvements to the key processes (e.g., application, auditing, accreditation, training, support, etc.) to make it more effective and accessible to participating firms.

Implementing the Integrity Program: Pilot Projects

In spring 2014, six ACQ members have agreed to participate and join the pilot project which consists to implement an integrity program within their organization. During ACQ’s annual meeting in October 2014, participants of the pilot projects had the opportunity to share a brief summary of their experience. Here is one of these testimonials.

Next Steps: a Guidance Service and an Independent Certification

In 2015, the ACQ will offer a tailored guidance service for all entrepreneurs who want to implement the Integrity Program within their company.

To learn more about what is included in the program, please consult this page (in French only).

The ACQ is currently developing an independent certification process in collaboration with partners in the construction industry.