LCQ4: Alleged falsification of concrete test reports
Last month, the Independent Commission Against Corruption arrested 21 staff members of a contractor of the Civil Engineering and Development Department (CEDD), who were suspected of corruption and having submitted fraudulent concrete compression test reports to CEDD. The contractor concerned is responsible for conducting concrete compression tests and soil density tests under the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge (HZMB) Hong Kong Boundary Crossing Facilities and Hong Kong Link Road projects as well as Tuen Mun-Chek Lap Kok Link project. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) whether it has grasped information on the parts of HZMB involved in test reports suspected to be fraudulent, and whether the structural safety of HZMB has been affected; given that the authorities have mainly performed visual inspections and non-destructive testing on the strength of concrete structure (commonly known as "Schmidt hammer test") to examine the stress-critical locations of the structures constructed under the aforesaid projects during the period relevant to such test reports, why the authorities do not perform structural tests by core drilling; whether any instance of concrete strength not meeting the design requirements has been identified so far;
(2) given that CEDD officers had uncovered, in as early as July last year, that the test times contained in some of the test reports submitted by the contractor concerned might have been tampered, why CEDD still awarded another consultancy contract to that contractor in March this year; and
(3) whether it has assessed if the project consultant commissioned to monitor the overall implementation of the HZMB project must be held responsible for the occurrence of the incident of submission by the contractor of test reports suspected to be fraudulent; whether measures are in place to strengthen the monitoring of public works quality so as to prevent occurrence of similar incidents?
The Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region is highly concerned about the incident of alleged falsification of reports by staff members of a laboratory outsourced by the Civil Engineering and Development Department (CEDD) in the concrete tests for the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge (HZMB) Hong Kong-related projects (i.e. the Hong Kong Boundary Crossing Facilities (HKBCF) and the Hong Kong Link Road (HKLR)) as well as the Tuen Mun - Chek Lap Kok Link (TM-CLKL) project. The Government will take this matter seriously.
As I stressed at the special meeting of the Legislative Council Panel on Transport the day before yesterday (June 5), all public works projects, in both design stage and construction stage, are subject to a well-established mechanism to ensure works quality and structural safety. Conducting concrete cube compressive strength test by a third-party laboratory other than works departments and contractors is a part of the entire quality control, so as to ensure that safety standards are met.
Having consulted Development Bureau (DEVB) and CEDD, below is a consolidated reply to the Hon Lam Cheuk-ting's question.
In the following days after learning on May 19 this year from CEDD about the arrest by the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) and the possible problem in the concrete cube samples, the Highways Department (HyD) swiftly conducted preliminary "visual inspections" for the structures of the HKBCF, HKLR and TM-CLKL projects, and the non-destructive concrete strength tests (commonly known as "Schmidt Hammer Tests") for the 3 000 stress-critical locations of bridge decks, bridge piers, buildings, tunnels structures, etc.
No sign of abnormalities were found in the preliminary visual inspections. As regards "Schmidt Hammer Tests", as of yesterday, around 2 049 stress-critical locations (i.e. two-thirds) were tested. The test results revealed that the tested structures were all up to standard. It is expected that the remaining "Schmidt Hammer Tests" could be completed by the end of June.
To further ensure structural safety, the Government has decided to carry out concrete stress tests on core samples, including, (1) to conduct sampled core tests on structures which have undergone "Schmidt Hammer Tests"; (2) to conduct core tests at locations which fail the "Schmidt Hammer Tests"; and (3) for structures constructed underground or below sea-level (such as piles), to conduct core tests on the 5 per cent of bored piles sampled in accordance with existing works contracts, and subject to the results of these tests, to consider whether further core tests on other structures will be required. All tests will be completed by the end of October this year.
Moreover, based on the information provided by ICAC, CEDD had examined the raw data of a total of about 170 000 concrete test records of the Public Works Regional Laboratory concerned. It was found that information on 210 concrete cubes was suspected to be problematic, representing 0.1 per cent. CEDD referred the information on those concrete cubes to HyD by batches between May 28 and June 1. HyD has reviewed all the information, and the distribution of the corresponding locations is at Annex. As of yesterday, "Schmidt Hammer Tests" had been completed at 80 locations of the problematic concrete cubes concerned, and all of them met the required standard. For the corresponding locations of the remaining problematic concrete cubes, HyD will deploy resources to carry out "Schmidt Hammer Tests" as a priority. Also, sampled core tests will be undertaken at the corresponding locations of the 210 problematic samples.
As for the consultant of the laboratory outsourced by CEDD, since it is discovered in mid-last year that the testing times in the testing records might be falsified, CEDD has immediately given an adverse report to the consultant in its quarterly performance appraisal and requested it to undertake a series of improvement measures, including the replacement of the staff-in-charge of the overall supervision of the laboratory concerned, deployment of additional supervisory staff, upgrading of the testing equipment to prevent unauthorised adjustment of testing times, etc. Having reviewed the overall situation including the consultant's improvement measures undertaken, CEDD considered at that time that it was not necessary to take regulating action. However, in light of suspected malpractices involved in the incident, the Department referred the case to ICAC for further investigation.
Since ICAC notified CEDD in May this year that the former's investigation involves falsification of reports, CEDD has immediately implemented additional measures. This includes deployment of additional government staff to monitor outsourced laboratories, arrangement of different laboratories to carry out concrete tests for works projects on a rotational basis, increasing the number of parallel testing to test the consistency of the performance of different laboratories, and strengthening of routine auditing check of test records. CEDD is currently reviewing its procedures for testing concrete cubes and will introduce other improvement measures as and when necessary.
In addition, DEVB issued a memorandum in May this year requesting various works departments to review and step up the monitoring of the performance of the architectural and engineering consultants employed by them, particularly from the integrity management and quality assurance perspectives. Works departments will continue to closely monitor the services delivered by the consultant concerned and will conduct technical audits. At the same time, DEVB is conducting another round of review to further enhance the management of architectural and engineering consultants.
President, the Government will ensure that the testing of the structures of the HZMB Hong Kong Section is robust, and that the structure is safe before the commissioning of the HZMB.
Ends/Wednesday, June 7, 2017
Issued at HKT 16:15
Issued at HKT 16:15