A Balfour Beatty whistleblower was paid £137,000 compensation after being “bullied” out of his job when he warned bosses of inflated costs on a Welsh Government project.
An employment tribunal heard how regional preconstruction manager Nigel McArthur was left “completely shellshocked” after he was hounded out of his job by his bosses following his protected disclosure about the Cardiff Callaghan Square project in 2014.
The Welsh Government awarded the £18.5m contract to Balfour Beatty to build an office in Cardiff as part of the regeneration of a vacant site.
“I was told by a senior figure that if these matters were ever made public those involved ‘would never work again,” said McArthur.
McArthur said Balfour Beatty had hidden the true costs of its subcontractors from the client. He said its profit margins on the job had increased from an agreed 3.3 per cent to 7.3 per cent.
Balfour Beatty settled the case two weeks before it was due to be heard in public.
McArthur, who has worked in the construction industry for 38 years, joined Balfour Beatty in 2005.
The tribunal was told McArthur reported his findings to his line manager but “was told that he should not have investigated the costs or alternatively that he should not be concerned about it”.
McArthur said he was later bullied in a “verbal confrontation” by his line manager even after two directors had expressed agreement with his concerns and “acknowledged that a fraud had been committed”.
He quit his job in February 2015 over the treatment he suffered following his disclosure.
The company settled the case before it came for a full hearing. They paid him £137,000 compensation.
The 56-year-old said: “This was the first time in my entire working career and 10 years at Balfour Beatty that anything like this had ever occurred.
“It was never on my radar screen. That’s why I resigned. I was told by a senior figure that if these matters were ever made public those involved ‘would never work again’.
“I was bullied and harassed after I made this disclosure. It left me feeling anxious and I had sleepless nights.”
He added that resigning from the company left him feeling “a sense of isolation and loneliness”.
Mr McArthur, who has not worked since quitting the firm, has now written to the Auditor General for Wales about his case.
He said Balfour Beatty’s costs on the £18.5m project rose to £877,000, despite the Welsh Government choosing not to go ahead with the project.
In his letter to the Auditor General, he wrote: “Having done the right thing originally and having been vindicated, it now falls to me to do so again by referring this matter for public scrutiny.”
A Balfour Beatty spokeswoman said: “In the employment tribunal proceedings, Balfour Beatty did not contest Mr McArthur’s claim for unfair dismissal and is paying compensation to him as assessed by the court.
“We accept that we failed to properly support our employee following concerns he raised, which resulted in him feeling it was necessary to resign.
“Balfour Beatty encourages its employees to report workplace concerns they may have and we have the tools in place to support them in doing so.
“We regret that on this occasion we fell short of the high standards we set for ourselves in this area. We will use the lessons learned from this experience to provide better support to our employees in the future.
“Balfour Beatty did not behave illegally or fraudulently in relation to the Callaghan Square project.
“Once senior management were aware of the facts regarding the Callaghan Square project, we provided full disclosure to the Welsh Assembly.
“The Welsh Assembly later made a decision not to pursue the project for reasons of their own unrelated to this matter.”
She added that “no criminal offence” had been committed and there had not been a failure “to comply with the law”.
The firm, which was paid around £600,000 for its work on the proposed development, said no one had been sacked or disciplined over the matter.
A Welsh Government spokesman said: “We would not comment on what is a staffing and contractual matter.”