In less than 60 years, South Korea has gone from being a country devastated by the Korean War into one of the world's most developed nations, and in the process has undergone a significant program of construction.
The Seoul Metropolitan Government (SMG) undertakes infrastructure projects within the city covering assets such as roads, tunnels, and subway lines. Design and planning are performed by departments within SMG while the actual construction work is the responsibility of the Seoul Metropolitan Infrastructure Headquarters (SMIH).
The construction boom throughout Korea as it rapidly developed in the late 20th Century was prone to issues. Poor construction practices and a lack of appropriate maintenance resulted in the collapse of some major infrastructure (e.g. the Seongsu Bridge in 1994, killing 50 people, and the Sampoong Department Store in 1995, killing more than 1,500 people).
The prevalence of poor construction and lack of transparency in the delivery of infrastructure was dangerous and affected community perceptions of infrastructure and its value.
SMG developed the Anti-Corruption Clean Construction System (CCS) in 2012 with the objective of eliminating the practice of poor construction. CCS is an online system that allows construction work to be managed and operated by contractors, supervisors, and city officials, and interrogated by the public.
The CCS is managed by a team within the General Construction Department of SMIH, which sits at the top of the organisation because of its role in overseeing anti-corruption and safety at all construction sites.
The CCS is built on three pillars:
Citizens' ‘right to know’
Improving efficiency of construction governance
Practicing clean construction administration.
The CCS as a system has four key modules:
Automated subcontractor payment system
Electronic HR Management System
One Project Management Information System (One-PMIS):
Allows for real-time monitoring of status of construction materials, workers, and equipment being used
Provides an online centralised storage of contract details and reporting, document management, safety management, and history and record management
Used by contractors, supervisors, and Seoul officials.
Construction Information Disclosure System (‘Allimi’ in Korean):
The system through which One-PMIS information is disclosed to the public in real-time
Provides key project information that is of public interest including project overviews, contract details, key stakeholders, construction photos, list of sanctions, and insolvencies
Members of the public can lodge questions and register for site-visits.
It is recommended that One-PMIS is used for all construction projects whose budgets exceed KRW20 million (USD17,650), and as at May 2016, SMG has mandated the use of One-PMIS in all construction contracts.
SMG - Seoul City Infrastructure Headquarters.
2012 – CCS introduced.
Results / impact
The transparent disclosure of information has contributed to reducing the costs of social conflict between government secrecy and the public's ‘right to know’.
As a result of moving from hand-written documents and in-person visits for approvals and permissions, to systematic digital sharing of documents and information on all aspects of construction projects in real-time, system users have paid greater focus to the quality of their reports and supporting documents.
As at 2015, Allimi has disclosed information on over 2,600 public construction projects in Seoul and had 164,419 users.
Allimi won the United Nations Public Service award in 2013 in recognition of its innovation and potential for application in other countries. It received the Human Technology Award in Korea in 2016 for recognition of its contributions to information sharing, public interest, and value creation in society.
SMG has shared the system with more than 20 countries and is providing follow-up advisory and technical support to some countries.
Key lessons learnt
Standardisation of business and reporting processes is important to reducing corruption risk.
Minimising unnecessary personal contacts among project participants (e.g. informal reporting, private gatherings) can help reduce opportunities for corruption.
Providing information in real-time is key.
There is little benefit in uploading outdated, or one-time information to the public.
Information disclosure to the public can create an underlying culture of accountability and reduce social conflicts surrounding public construction projects.
Ongoing system upgrades are just as important as initial development and there must be a multi-year budget allocated for this purpose.