Police investigate suspected repair scam at public housing estate

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 08 November, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 08 November, 2007, 12:00am

Police have opened an investigation into allegations that two labourers tried to swindle construction fees out of the Housing Department by leaving hundreds of exposed steel bars in the wall of a six-year-old block of flats, apparently to give the impression that it needed repairs.

The department has asked the project contractor and supervisor to submit a report about the incident by today. It says it will consider legal action against both if they are found to have acted negligently.

Chung Shing Construction, the contractor awarded a HK$400 million deal to renovate five buildings on the Chung On Estate in Sha Tin, will not be stripped of its contract to carry out minor repairs on four other public housing estates.

A Chung Shing director, who would give only his family name, Tong, broke the company's silence on the incident yesterday.

'We didn't cheat anyone of any money, but we could have done a better job of supervision and monitoring,' Mr Tong said.

He said the workers involved had been hired by a subcontractor and had now fled.

The Housing Department had hired another company, Sunbase International Properties Management, to supervise the work on the Sha Tin estate. That firm is also under investigation. A department spokesman said it was Sunbase's duty to send an engineer to monitor the projects.

Residents of Chung Chi House were surprised to see hundreds of steel bars protruding from man-made holes in the wall of their building last Friday after the two workers completed an 'inspection' of the exterior.

Lawmaker Lau Kong-wah, who was called to assist the residents, said the workers might have done so to create an impression that the building had a structural problem.

He said the Housing Authority's deputy director for estate management, Lau Kai-hung, had told him the department would check its records to see whether the contractor had a track record of dishonesty.

A police spokesman said the force had received a report and had begun investigations.