Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge

Hong Kong government must fix loopholes in system to avoid repeat of mega bridge scandal, lawmaker says

He wants system to safeguard against falsification of tests after employees of lab service contractor were accused of switching concrete samples during safety testing

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 01 June, 2017, 9:20pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 01 June, 2017, 11:18pm

The Hong Kong government needs to plug loopholes in the system overseeing laboratories in the city, a pan-democratic lawmaker has urged, to avoid a repeat of the corruption scandal plaguing the multibillion-dollar Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge.

Edward Yiu Chung-yim’s call on Thursday cameafter 21 employees of lab service contractor Jacobs China were arrested by graft-busters last month. The 21 are accused of faking concrete test results for the bridge project by altering time stamps and switching samples in order to meet compressive strength standards.

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In a reply to the Post, the contractor’s US-based mother company Jacobs Engineering Group confirmed it was cooperating with Hong Kong officials in an investigation relating to a materials testing laboratory, staffed by technicians from its subsidiary.

Yiu, representing the planning and surveying sector, said the concrete scandal had exposed severe loopholes in the quality control system that oversaw the safety tests done by laboratories.

“It is not the first time we’ve heard about a lab switching test samples in order to pass the test. It concerns the conduct of the staff and also the lack of supervision on the labs’ operation,” he said.

To safeguard against any falsification of results, Yiu suggested that for the testing of any public works projects, the government should split the samples for two labs to conduct their own tests. “This will allow the government to cross-check the test results from two separate labs and reduce the risk of falsification,” he said.

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Yiu also suggested that a registration system be set up for all lab staff to ensure their service levels are up to par.

He also sought a review of the Hong Kong Laboratory Accreditation Scheme, operated by the Hong Kong Accreditation Service (HKAS). Yiu said authorities should strike accredited organisations off the plan if they are found to be involved in any type of irregularities or malpractice.

“So far the scheme recognises only the capability of a lab or testing provider to perform specific activities but it does not guarantee individual results or [mean their products are certified]. I think the government needs to address these loopholes to effectively deter any irregularities,” he said.

A spokesman for the Innovation and Technology Commission, which governs HKAS, said the service had a robust system to monitor the performance of accredited laboratories to ensure their compliance with accreditation criteria, including those on impartiality and integrity.

The measures include regular reassessments and surveillance visits to accredited labs.

“Non-compliance will result in suspension or termination of their accreditation,” he said.

The Legislative Council’s transport panel will hold a special meeting to look into the fake test controversy next Monday.