Plea for ‘increased vigilance’ following discovery of fake certification offered to companies


Plea for ‘increased vigilance’ following discovery of fake certification offered to companies

Crooked suppliers have been caught faking steel quality certificates to try to win contracts, the steel certification authority CARES revealed today.

Firms are trying to trick major contractors into buying safety critical reinforcing materials backed up by doctored certificates.

The discovery comes in the wake of a warning from Grenfell Fire report author, Dame Judith Hackitt, that firms unwilling to learn lessons from the tragedy will not survive the new Building Safety laws.

Sharp-eyed procurement managers at one major construction company were puzzled when they spotted inconsistencies in the documents used to authenticate the materials they were considering to buy. When they contacted CARES – the UK Certification Authority for Reinforcing Steels – the ‘certificates’ provided by the potential supplier were found to be fakes. 

“This is outrageous, particularly at this extraordinarily difficult time for everyone in the industry,” said CARES Chief Executive Officer, Lee Brankley.

“We have had instances in the past where people have tried to pass off outdated documents as still being valid or, on extremely rare occasions, where there has been evidence of tampering with certification. But generating a fake certificate of approval is a new low, and it opens up all sorts of risks.”

CARES introduced digital security measures as an extra layer of back-up last year, prior to the Coronavirus pandemic. With the lockdown hitting international supply chains all CARES certification switched to remote operations, with the authority’s assessors using digital resources to conduct remote audits.

“With the launch of the CARES Cloud digital ecosystem and the CARES Cloud App we have been able to provide an additional layer of confidence to clients on all these matters,” added Mr Brankley.

The Kobe Steel scandal – in which a major Japanese manufacturer was found to have issued fake data supporting its products – had caused a “serious rethink about security” across the sector, he explained. Kobe Steel’s fraudulent actions came in the wake of the Volkswagen emissions cheating scandal and, with other incidents, CARES took the decision to introduce static QR codes offering instant scanning to confirm the authenticity of a CARES certificate of approval.

Dame Judith warned contractors earlier this month that new Building Safety legislation, which will include an independent Regulator for the sector, meant that the days of corner-cutting in the construction supply chain were over. Firms which failed to face up to the new reality would not survive, she told an online conference of senior infrastructure executives.

CARES is now issuing a fresh warning to reinforcing steel users to be on the lookout for suspect certification. In the most recent case the ISO management system certification attached to the supplier’s documentation was found to be “very peculiar” and contained anomalies which rang alarm bells. Following a check with CARES the documents were quickly proven to be fakes.

“Our inquiries into this incident are continuing and we do hope it remains one of a very small number of such incidents,” added Mr Brankley. “Obviously we are extremely concerned that this is happening and we would encourage all main contractors and procurement officials to please contact us if there is any concern about the authenticity of any CARES documentation they are offered.”

Digital authenticity checks can be made when using the CARES Cloud App.


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