Hong Kong MTR

MTR Corp passes scandal information to law enforcers amid accusations of ‘unprofessional’ handling of shoddy work report

Subcontractor China Technology Corporation said that evidence was left out of rail giant’s report to government

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 27 June, 2018, 9:03am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 27 June, 2018, 12:20pm

Hong Kong’s MTR Corporation has provided law enforcement agencies with information on the recent shoddy work scandal surrounding the city’s costliest rail project, even as one of the subcontractors involved demanded that the transport operator make public its full report on the matter.

In a statement published in the Post’s print edition on Wednesday, the MTR Corp said it had referred some unverified information to the authorities.

The rail giant said it encouraged anyone with any relevant information concerning the case to report to police or other law enforcement agencies.

“Making unproven allegations and speculations without substantiation by evidence does not provide the public, or the relevant authorities, any clearer understanding of the events surrounding this matter,” it said.

This came soon after a spokesman for China Technology Corporation said the firm had made a statement regarding the scale of the construction problems at Hung Hom station, which directly contradicted evidence given by other parties.

China Technology, which was hired for concreting work at the station on the Sha Tin-Central link by the main contractor Leighton Contractors (Asia), accused MTR Corp of being “unprofessional” in its approach to the report it sent to the Highways Department on June 15.

MTR Corp earlier said China Technology’s evidence had not been made public because it contained allegations strenuously denied by Leighton. After taking legal advice, the rail operator had opted to pass China Technology’s statement to the government separately.

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The Highways Department has already asked police to investigate the scandal surrounding the HK$97.1 billion project, and a government-appointed commission of inquiry will also investigate.

The controversy erupted last month after MTR Corp said that on five occasions between August and December 2015 fewer than 25 steel bars in total were shortened to look like they had been screwed correctly into couplers on the platforms.

It also admitted to failing to keep a record on four other occasions of questionable construction work, because the corporation had already asked Leighton staff to fix the problems.

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In the MTR report, Leighton was accused by another subcontractor, Fang Sheung, of instructing its workers to cut the bars.

Photographs obtained by the Post showed workers in Leighton uniforms cutting bars.

China Technology’s spokesman told the Post withholding its statements from the report was unfair to the company, and the public.

“When I was giving the statements to the MTR, two legal representatives of Leighton interrupted me from time to time but they never denied or disagreed with the statements I made,” he said.

The spokesman said when evidence was coming from a variety of sources, the fairest way was to present all versions to the public and let people judge for themselves.

He said he had not been approached by the police, and had instead asked for a meeting with the Highways Department to discuss China Technology’s concerns.

The saga has been further complicated by fresh allegations from lawmaker and former rail boss Michael Tien Puk-sun regarding the number of faulty steel bars involved.

Tien has claimed it is actually 200 times the initial figure the city’s rail operator admitted to.

Citing anonymous sources, Tien said 5,000 bars were cut short – about 20 per cent of the total amount – instead of less than 25 as claimed by MTR Corp in its report.

As Leighton was expected to submit a report to the Development Bureau explaining its roles in the scandal on Tuesday, Michael Wong Wai-lun, the secretary for development, said they would study its report and make a final decision about the appropriate punishment after seeking legal advice.

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“The government has the duty to ensure contractors meet certain safety standards,” he said.

“If we discover circumstances that warrant action, we can consider a range of punishment options such as removal, suspension from the tender list, or downgrading the contractor.”