If the construction industry got its act together, it could save America
It won’t be easy. But it should be.
Provided we improve ethics, learn from history, clean house and let civil engineers take the lead, the country would be in good hands. But, as history has proven, the construction industry fails to learn from its mistakes, according to Paul Gogulski, president of Gogulski & Associates, Inc.
Here is Mr. Gogulski’s reasoning:
The 1980 Ward Commission reported extortion and bribery as a norm for award of public works projects in Boston concluded with the statement: ‘We have learned that corruption is a way of life in Massachusetts.’ One would think this 2 ½ year, 2000 page, 12 volume study would result in immediate indictments. It didn’t. On the contrary, ethics violations grew worse as evidenced twenty years later by the massive corruption within Boston’s Big Dig, referred to as “America’s Biggest Highway Robbery” by author Robert Skole. This project cost a staggering 22 billion dollars, nearly 10 times the original budget, and almost 3 times the cost of the Panama Canal at today’s prices. With a host of failed ceilings, overpayments, unbelievable fraud, incompetent design, mismanagement by two of the largest construction managers, and a whole cadre of crooks the likes of which will make for a great movie one day, Boston’s Big Dig sets new levels for ethical erosion.
“When ethics are compromised within the enterprise which hires civil engineers, it leads to deterioration in the values once considered the bedrock of the engineering profession.” Gogulski said. “Those who profess that nothing is wrong so long as everything is legal have been deceived by those who have acquired considerable skill in using, interpreting and manipulating the law.”
Gogulski asserts that Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s premise that “Life organized legalistically has shown its inability to defend itself against the corrosion of evil” has proven to be true. Examples include case histories of major projects such as Boston’s Big Dig, the Venetian Casino Resort, Disney’s Contemporary Resort Hotel, the Las Vegas Monorail, Owens Lake Dust Mitigation, the Harmon Tower at City Center in Las Vegas and the Clarksville Marina in Tennessee. In each case “situational ethics” have prevailed over intellectual integrity, says Gogulski. He continues, “The resulting litigation speaks for itself”.
Similarly, Robert A. Caro’s ‘The Power Broker – Robert Moses and the Fall of New York’ confirms the worst of ethics and character defects existing throughout decades of abusive power within construction projects in New York. Moses held the public in contempt and rigged every project with his cronies on the agency boards which oversaw the approval process. This Pulitzer Prize winning book should be read by every civil engineer and construction manager in America.
Where is the outrage today? When the same firms who made millions on unethical practices continue their business practices as usual, how does the construction industry respond?
“Project managers have a tendency to appease those in charge who often show little, if any, consideration for ethics in their quest for profit. Engineers are tempted to ‘go with the flow’ and condone the ethical issues which they know to be wrong, but fear being replaced by someone who would present a more ‘enlightened’ temperament for the decision makers quest for profit. When decision making is examined from a perspective of ethical values, the motivation appears oblivious to any standard which may interfere with the ‘bottom line.”
Solzhenitsyn states in ‘Warning to the West’: “This is something which is almost incomprehensible to the human mind: that burning greed for profit which goes beyond all reason, all self-control, and all conscience, only to get money.” Mr. Gogulski feels Solzhenitsyn’s above statement describes the banks who disburse the funds, and effectively are the masters of the construction industry. The fruit does not fall far from the tree.
Gogulski & Associates, Inc. offers ethical perspectives learned from over fifty years in civil engineering, general contracting, and forensic consulting. With litigation on the rise and likely to continue unabated, Gogulski has developed programs which limit risk and abuse. In addition, Mr. Gogulski offers insight into the systemic issues attributable to the increase of claims, and uses common sense within the terms of the contract documents for resolution.
On a broader scale, Mr. Gogulski believes that civil engineers are qualified to solve today’s most pressing problems in America using skills learned within their profession. Gogulski states that “The survival of our nation depends upon a return to the ethics of our founders.” Just as they did in Egypt under the Pharos, civil engineers should lead in the governing of the nation.
The construction industry should seek to restore the ethical values stated in our Constitution. Those that condone abuse and tolerate corruption should be replaced by builders, architects and engineers who, as Kipling says: “Can walk in crowds and keep their virtue, and talk with kings nor lose the common touch”
For America to survive and thrive, Gogulski feels we need the intestinal fortitude to clean house, walk humbly before our God, and once more become the light on the hill.