Are concrete testing companies all they are cracked up to be? A recent report in the New York Times indicated that one New York-based concrete testing company has been accused of falsifying reports on a variety of public and private construction jobs. Concurrently, two other companies are under investigation for allegedly falsifying testing reports on similar projects.
We're not talking a garden-variety warehouse—these incidents involved billion-dollar public transportation-related projects.
One question that comes to mind is why a testing company would risk its reputation by falsifying reports for a contract valued in the neighborhood of $150,000 to $200,000.
Sure, these contracts bring in much-needed cash flow. I understand that a business has to take any work it can get in the construction industry these days, even if the profit is minimal.
On the other hand, the risk associated with falsifying testing reports far outweighs the potential reward. If such an infraction is proven, consider the immeasurable costs of litigation, loss of future contracts combined with the damage to the company's and the employees' reputations.
In the case of the three New York companies, it is possible the one testing company accused of falsifying reports was under tremendous pressure to quickly produce a large number of reports for a contract that was not very profitable.
Hypothetically, the company may have cut corners by providing reports for testing that did not actually occur in order to secure some amount of profit. If this scenario did indeed happen, it is inexcusable and the company should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
Taking the issue of integrity in concrete testing out of New York, how common is falsifying test reports in the U.S.?
I spoke with Sue Flood, president of Flood Laboratories, Chicago, regarding the situation in New York City.
“Production of fraudulent reports gives the appearance of wholesale fraud in the industry,” says Flood. “This of course is not true, but for appearance' sake, this hurts all testing agencies in the construction field. People remember the incidents. I think the incident would particularly affect those labs in the New York City area.”
In case you were wondering, New York's Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) independently tested all critical concrete on the construction jobs in question, and discovered no problems at the time of the testing. The MTA plans to continue to independently test the concrete over time to ensure safety and accuracy. Additionally, the MTA vowed to investigate any fraud that may have been committed by all three concrete testing companies.
Certainly, the deliberate production of fraudulent results by at least one testing company will resonate deeply in the concrete construction industry. The damage may be difficult to measure if the other two companies suffer the same fate.