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Changing the game: A critical analysis of infrastructure corruption in mega sport events

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Changing the game: A critical analysis of infrastructure corruption in mega sport events

New research from Engineers Against Poverty highlights the ramifications of corruption in Mega Sport Event (MSE) infrastructure, a reoccurring issue in MSE history resulting in poor quality and inflated constructions.

The research assesses the issue across major events, finding concerns in project planning and ineffective channels to report wrongdoing. Its recommendations are focussed on using transparency and collaboration and are based on what has worked elsewhere. 

Infrastructure corruption is not exclusive to MSEs and has been widely recognised as a key factor in the billions wasted in the sector per year. Yet the issues are exacerbated in MSEs, where decision making is politicised, logistics highly complex and accountability very low.

These issues include complex contracting due to contracts spanning both national and international levels, which is made worse by a general absence of an efficient contract management system. Increased interaction between public and private contractors is another factor which has encouraged collusion between these stakeholders in MSEs. For example, four of the main construction firms responsible for the 2014 Brazil World Cup and 2016 Rio Games donated almost $US 95 million to political parties managing event funds.

Using evidence of what has worked in other contexts, Changing the game: A critical analysis of large-scale corruption in Mega Sport Event infrastructure projects includes recommendations which could overhaul corruption in MSE infrastructure if adopted. 

For instance, to better monitor the events the expert-developed Open Contracting for Infrastructure Data Standard (OC4IDS) could massively heighten data transparency. Intended for incorporation into online platforms, the OC4IDS can be integrated with existing government systems and allow data to be compared from across contractors, helping to encourage honest bidding.

To address poor project planning – one of the major contributors to cost and time overruns – host governments could partner with a project preparation facility in their bid for the events to create a robust planning process with an accurate budget and to ensure their preparedness from the outset.

Other recommendations to improve performance and report on bad behaviour include encouraging more openness and adequate whistle-blower mechanisms. Including these and other measures as an obligation in the infrastructure project bidding stage would ensure they materialise and are used.

Corruption is a common issue in MSE infrastructure delivery. It often costs lives, is a heavy burden to taxpayers and results in poor quality infrastructure. Recommendations outlined in the paper could significantly change the game, to deliver infrastructure that serves communities and leaves a positive legacy.

Read the opening remarks to EAP Insights’ Changing the Game series

Read the first paper Changing the Game: A critical analysis of labour exploitation in Mega Sport Event infrastructure projects


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Tippi Creed-Waring


Thursday, January 28, 2021 - 12:18

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