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Hong Kong Concrete-Testing Scandal Grows

Thursday, June 22, 2017

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The scandal surrounding falsified concrete tests on a Hong Kong bridge-tunnel megaproject has widened to involve 55 other projects in which concrete sample tests have been characterized as “problematic.”

Late last month, 21 employees of Jacobs China, a subsidiary of U.S.-based Jacobs Engineering, were arrested in Hong Kong on charges that they faked lab tests of concrete samples from the Hong Kong-Zuhai-Macao Bridge project.

Newly Discovered Problems

New reports indicate that an investigation of test results and reports from the Jacobs lab turned up 116 test samples that officials deemed to be problematic, meaning there were discrepancies between raw data and the information presented in lab reports. The newly uncovered discrepancies apply to 55 projects in the country in addition to the HKZMB project.

HKZMB project
© iStock.com / Only5

Late last month, 21 employees of Jacobs China, a subsidiary of U.S.-based Jacobs Engineering, were arrested in Hong Kong on charges that they faked lab tests of concrete samples from the Hong Kong-Zuhai-Macao Bridge project.

At the time of the arrests in May, Hong Kong officials said 210 samples from HKZMB were problematic.

Officials stressed that the issues that were uncovered in relation to the additional projects do not pose a safety risk.

“Our analysis showed that the [concrete of 55 public projects] still complied with the government’s requirements,” Hong Kong Civil Engineering and Development Department acting director Norman Heung Yuk-sai said Saturday (June 17), according to the South China Morning Post.

According to reports, projects affected by the problematic samples include a tunnel at the Central-Wan Chai Bypass and a children’s hospital.

Samples on the HKZMB project are being tested to determine whether they comply with specifications for the project.

Engineering Firm Banned

On June 2, Hong Kong officials announced that Jacobs China would be banned from bidding on government contracts in that country for a year as a result of the arrests. Current Jacobs contracts and consultancies, though, were allowed to continue.

HZSMB from above
Wing1990hk, CC-BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The HKZMB project, which includes an 18.3-mile bridge and a 4-mile stretch of tunnel running 131 feet below the Pearl River Delta, has been ongoing since 2011, and the cost has repeatedly risen during construction.

Hong Kong’s Independent Commission Against Corruption brought the charges against the Jacobs employees—two supervisors and 19 staff—after allegedly finding that staff at the testing lab may have adjusted the times listed for when testing took place to cover up when testing was done outside of the prescribed timeframe. The investigation into the testing revealed, ICAC says, that staff may also have replaced samples with high-strength concrete cubes or a metal calibration cylinder, to create the appearance that sample cubes had been tested though they had not.

ICAC says the two senior technicians certified the falsified reports, and “might have corruptly connived at the submission of the false reports to the CEDD.”

HKZMB History

The HKZMB project, which includes an 18.3-mile bridge and a 4-mile stretch of tunnel running 131 feet below the Pearl River Delta, has been ongoing since 2011, and the cost has repeatedly risen during construction. Current estimates have the Hong Kong section of the project at more than HK$117 billion (about $15 billion). In addition to Hong Kong, sections of the bridge are in mainland China and Macao.

Earlier this year, authorities disclosed that in 2014, two seawalls that were built as part of the project collapsed and had to be rebuilt. The Morning Post reports that 10 workers have died during the project’s construction, and more than 600 have been injured.

   

Tagged categories: Bridges; concrete; Ethics; Government; Government contracts; Quality control; Safety; Testing + Evaluation; Tunnel

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