A Balfour Beatty whistleblower was compensated £137,000 after being “bullied” out of his job after warning bosses about inflated costs on a Welsh Government project.
An employment tribunal heard how regional preconstruction manager Nigel McArthur was left “completely shellshocked” after his bosses hounded him out of his job in 2014 after making a protected disclosure about the Cardiff Callaghan Square project.
Balfour Beatty was awarded a £18.5 million contract by the Welsh Government to build an office in Cardiff as part of the regeneration of a vacant site.
“A senior figure told me that if these matters were ever made public, those involved ‘would never work again,” McArthur said.
McArthur claimed that Balfour Beatty withheld the true costs of its subcontractors from the client. He stated that the company’s profit margins on the job had increased from an agreed-upon 3.3 percent to 7.3%.
Balfour Beatty settled the case two weeks before it was scheduled to go to trial.
McArthur, who has 38 years of experience in the construction industry, joined Balfour Beatty in 2005.
According to the tribunal, McArthur reported his findings to his line manager but was “told that he should not have investigated the costs or that he should not be concerned about it.”
McArthur claimed he was later bullied in a “verbal confrontation” by his line manager, despite the fact that two directors agreed with him and “acknowledged that a fraud had been committed.”
He resigned from his job in February 2015 due to the treatment he received as a result of his disclosure.
Before a full hearing, the company settled the case. They compensated him with £137,000 pounds.
“This was the first time in my entire working career and 10 years at Balfour Beatty that anything like this had ever occurred,” the 56-year-old said.
“It was never on my radar.” That’s why I stepped down. A senior figure told me that if these details became public, those involved “would never work again.”
“After I made this disclosure, I was bullied and harassed.” It made me anxious, and I had sleepless nights as a result.”
He went on to say that resigning from the company left him feeling “isolated and lonely.”
Mr McArthur, who has not worked since leaving the firm, has written to the Auditor General of Wales about his situation.
He claimed that Balfour Beatty’s costs on the £18.5 million project had risen to £877,000 despite the Welsh Government’s decision not to proceed with the project.
“Having done the right thing originally and being vindicated, it now falls to me to do so again by referring this matter for public scrutiny,” he wrote in his letter to the Auditor General.
“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,” a Balfour Beatty spokeswoman said.
“We accept that we failed to properly support our employee in response to concerns he raised, which led to him feeling compelled to resign.”
“Balfour Beatty encourages its employees to report any workplace concerns they may have, and we have tools in place to help them do so.”
“We regret that we fell short of the high standards we set for ourselves in this area on this occasion.” We will apply the lessons learned from this experience in the future to provide better support to our employees.
“Balfour Beatty did not engage in any illegal or fraudulent conduct in connection with the Callaghan Square project.”
“Once senior management was made aware of the facts pertaining to the Callaghan Square project, we provided full disclosure to the Welsh Assembly.”
“The Welsh Assembly later decided not to pursue the project for reasons unrelated to this matter.”
She went on to say that “no criminal offence” had been committed and that there had been no failure “to comply with the law.”
The firm, which was paid approximately £600,000 for its work on the proposed development, stated that no one had been fired or disciplined as a result of the situation.
“We would not comment on what is a staffing and contractual matter,” a Welsh Government spokesman said.