I have had several interesting conversations lately regarding accountability in project design, construction, and installations.
These conversations have led me to ask you the following question: “Have you set the fox to guard the hen house?”
According to urbandictionary.com, the definition of this phrase is: “putting somebody in charge of a job, when they have a conflict of interest.” So, what defines a conflict of interest?
One argues that the design engineer (or firm) should be an entity separate from the engineering firm performing the Construction Quality Assurance (CQA) because this will indeed provide a series of checks and balances between the design and the constructability of the project, and increase the likelihood that nothing is inadvertently overlooked.
Another argues that the installation firm should be an entity separate from the design engineer/firm and the CQA engineer/firm in order to have the project’s best interest at heart. After all, having a firm perform CQA on their own installation crew seems to be a conflict of interest. But with today’s buyouts and mergers, how easy is it to truly distinguish who is vested in whom?
An age-old argument brews on whether or not an installation crew should be installing materials manufactured or fabricated by their parent or sister firm, performing different arms of work under one ownership. Is the installer really going to make an issue of a product they see as inferior, and if so, will that question be dealt with proactively?
Even third-party laboratories have come under scrutiny of this question for soil and geosynthetics testing. Is a laboratory owned by an engineering firm (design or CQA) willing to take a stand when the owner may have time sensitive deadlines to meet?
So, what are your thoughts? Do any of these even matter? Do all of these matter? Do you see anything in your local regulations defining conflict of interest? Do you see anything in your CQA Plan or other construction documents that define conflict of interest?
I am curious to hear your answers to these questions. I believe discussion of this issue can have a significant impact on how we collectively move forward with a focus on quality and avoid the reputation of the fox.