Construction firm behind shoddy work on Hong Kong’s Sha Tin-Central rail link ‘should be barred’ from sports park contract at Kai Tak airport
Despite year-long tendering ban, it appears Leighton Contractors (Asia)’s bid for HK$32 billion sports park contract at Kai Tak airport remains unaffected
A construction firm mired in scandal over Hong Kong’s costliest rail link should be disqualified from a multibillion-dollar project at the city’s old airport, critics have said.
It appeared on Tuesday that Leighton Contractors (Asia)’s bid for the HK$32 billion sports park contract at Kai Tak airport would remain unaffected, despite the company being slapped with a year-long ban from tendering for government projects after shoddy work was exposed on the HK$97.1 billion (US$12.39 billion) Sha Tin-Central rail link.
Jason Poon Chuk-hung, director of China Technology Corporation and whistle-blower of the rail link scandal, said the government should clarify how it would handle Leighton’s role in the bidding process for the Kai Tak contract.
“Now it’s in the final stage of the tendering process, it’s not easy to disqualify a bidder and find a replacement,” he said on a radio programme on Tuesday. “The ideal way is for Leighton to withdraw voluntarily. The government needs to address this and give the public an explanation.”
“Since Leighton is already banned from bidding for government contracts, its joint bid should be disqualified,” Poon added.
Lawmaker Michael Tien Puk-sun said Leighton should be stripped permanently of its status as an approved contractor for public works, or be suspended for five years.
“For a multinational enterprise like Leighton, only a disqualification or suspension of five years can serve as a deterrent,” Tien said.
Leighton, the main contractor of the expanded Hung Hom station on the new rail link, is an investor in a consortium headed by Guangzhou R&F Properties, one of the two shortlisted bidders for the showpiece project.
The Post reported earlier that New World Development was the other finalist vying to design, build and run the complex on a 25-year lease.
They have been given six months to design the project and the runner-up will be compensated HK$60 million. The Home Affairs Bureau is expected to announce the results by the end of this year.
A bureau spokeswoman on Tuesday said the tender for the sports park project was already closed on August 10.
“The government received two tender submissions,” she explained. “As the tender assessment is in progress, the government is not able to release the tender details.”
Poon also called for the firm to be disqualified permanently from bidding for public works as he accused it of misconduct regarding the construction of the Hung Hom station platform and diaphragm walls.
“Based on the information I gathered, Leighton should be removed from the government list of approved contractors for public works,” he said.
The Development Bureau imposed the penalty on Leighton on Monday for “construction issues associated with Hung Hom station” after reports in May of shoddy work involving steel bars being cut short to make it seem as if they had been properly screwed into couplers on the station platform.
In July, diaphragm walls on the new platform were found to have deviated from approved designs without the Buildings Department’s approval.
Samsung C&T Corporation and Hsin Chong Construction Company, firms in a joint venture to build two stations on the link, each received a four-month ban for issues found at To Kwa Wan station.
In another punishment arising from subpar work at Exhibition Centre station, Leighton and its joint venture partner China State Construction Engineering Corporation (CCCEC), were barred from bidding for buildings or roads and drainage contracts worth more than HK$300 million for a period of three months.
Leighton’s three-month penalty would take effect at the end of its 12-month ban on all government contracts.
Tien pointed out the public tender bans allowed the companies to still compete for contracts with the MTR Corp, the Airport Authority and the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority. Though they are not public works contracts, they are entities the government has a large involvement with.
He urged the government to make a prompt decision to crack open the wall on the platform at Hung Hom station to find out the truth about the shoddy work.
“As far as I know, once the concrete is knocked down, some striking facts will be unearthed,” he said.