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Catherine and Neill Stansbury  

U.K. Couple's Mission Is Core at Work and at Home

Neill and Catherine Stansbury ramp up their decade-long effort to fight construction corruption around the world

Catherine and Neill Stansbury turned their backs on lucrative careers as international corporate lawyers to concentrate on fighting construction corruption at home in the  U.K. and abroad.

Over the last few years, the married couple has crafted, largely with their own  funds, a graft-fighting machine that aims to raise corruption awareness and reaction among international construction practitioners. Now, the Stansburys are set to roll out a new product of their effort to tackle corruption on construction work in Africa. Their partner is the U.K. branch of Transparency International, (TI), the independent Berlin-based global watchdog.

The Stansburys’ Project Anti-Corruption System (PACS) is a package for designing and implementing corruption countermeasures on construction projects. It provides standards that owners and funding entities and other players can use to assess existing graft control measures and develop new ones.

 View Award of Excellence Luncheon and Acceptance Speech of Catherine and Neill Stansbury

The PACS rollout is part of the Stansburys’ strategy to raise awareness of corruption-fighting tools and ensure their application. By travelling and speaking widely, Neill fronts the couple’s work while “Catherine produces a prodigious amount of anti-corruption reports and business tools for the construction sector,” says Bob McKittrick, a former director of Scott Wilson Group plc. and a past president of the U.K. Institution of Structural Engineers. Their documents  “explain how corruption takes place and the risks and costs it imposes on various project participants,” says McKittrick.

The Stansburys trace their abhorrence of corruption to their African upbringing. “Growing up in Kenya, I’ve seen the tremendous damage that it does,” says Catherine.

The couple met and married in Hong Kong, while Catherine worked for a commercial litigation firm and Neill was an attorney to a major local contractor. They formed their own firm in 1992 but relocated back to England to raise their daughters.

“We began to wonder that there must be a way to help the industry develop in a way that doesn’t need to be corrupt,” says Neill, noting the need for specific and systematic steps. To develop their ideas, Neill gave up paid work in 2002 and approached TI to help reach into the construction industry. TI agreed, but “we basically got ignored” by the industry, he says. Catherine turned full time to the anti-corruption crusade two years later.

McKittrick joined forces with the duo soon after. He “put his head above the parapet” in an address to the structural engineers group by damning corruption as evil and calling for professional action, Neill  remembers. The collaboration, joined by others as well, led to creation of the U.K. Anti-Corruption Forum in 2004. The group, which Neill Stansbury coordinates, includes construction groups and firms. The Forum promotes industry-led actions to eliminate construction corruption at home and abroad. It posts large amounts of information on its Website, holds anti-graft conferences and “has gained respect among many U.K. and international organizations,” says McKittrick, who credits the Stansburys with its formation.

The couple noticed a “step change” in industry acceptance of anti-corruption efforts in 2005 following the release of their Anti-Corruption Code. It caused a stir by listing specific criminal laws that were routinely broken. “A lot of people in the construction industry don’t understand that what they are doing is criminal,” says Catherine. That led to this year’s widely-distributed Anti-Corruption Training manual, which teaches users how to avoid potentially illegal situations.

Since giving up their legal practice, the Stansburys have lived mainly off savings and expenses from TI. They now earn some fees, but “neither of us has a great desire to be immensely wealthy,” says Catherine.Their work is not an altruistic sabbatical but a long-term mission. “Neill and Catherine are totally dedicated to the cause of anti-corruption,” says McKittrick. “They put their heart and soul into all that they do.”

By Peter Reina


The Newsmakers, by name:
(click on a name to go directly to that person's profile)
  1. José Abreu
    Aviation Director for Miami International Airport
  2. Mike Allegra
    Assistant General Manager for Utah Transit Authority
  3. Clyde N. Baker
    Geotech Engineer of his firm STS Consultants
  4. Mike Budd
    President of Permasteelisa Central-South, Miami
  5. Ed Clayton
    Ooutage Planning Manager for Alabama Power
  6. Jeff Dailey
    Chief Engineer for North Texas Tollway Authority
  7. Drew A. Gangnes
    Director of Civil Engineering for Magnusson Klemencic Associates, Seattle
  8. William J. Gilbane Jr.
    President and COO, of Gilbane Building Co
  9. Tim Horst
    President of Bechtel's open shop arm, Becon Construction Co., Houston
  10. Ron Johnson
    Associate Partner for Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP, Chicago.
  11. Jon Khachaturian
    Founder of Versabar
  12. Soo-Hong Kim
  13. William R. Knocke
    Head of the Charles E. Via Dept. of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Virginia Tech University
  14. Cary Kopczynski
    Structural Engineer for firm Kopczynski in Bellevue, Wash.
  15. William A. Lichtig
    Shareholder with Sacramento-based McDonough Holland & Allen PC
  16. Michael Markus
    General Manager for Orange County, California Water District (OCWD)
  17. Amy Jo McKean
    Lead Engineer at Southern Star Central Gas Pipeline Inc.
  18. C.C. Myers
    Owner of C.C. Myers Inc.
  19. Daniel H. Nall
    Director of Advanced Technologies for Flack+Kurtz, New York City.
  20. Bob Nilsson
    Senior Advisor of Turner International LLC, New York City
  21. David J. Shillingford
    National Equipment Register
  22. Catherine Stansbury
    Project Anti-Corruption System (PACS)
  23. Neill Stansbury
    Project Anti-Corruption System (PACS)
  24. Peter G. Vigue
    Chairman of employee-owned Cianbro Corp.
  25. Bruce W. Wilkinson
    Chief of Houston's McDermott International


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