Sha Tin-Central link site manager prosecuted for assault after whistle-blower’s shoddy work claim, Hong Kong inquiry hears
- Main contractor witness says subcontractor’s allegation of defective work is a ‘barefaced lie’
A site manager of the main contractor at the centre of a construction scandal involving Hong Kong’s most expensive rail project was prosecuted for assault soon after a whistle-blower accused him of directing shoddy work.
The details of the scuffle emerged on Friday as Khyle Rodgers, former superintendent of main contractor Leighton Contractors (Asia), testified at the commission of inquiry into defective performance at the expanded Hung Hom station of the HK$97.1 billion (US$12.4 billion) Sha Tin-Central link.
Leighton is at the centre of allegations that steel bars were cut short to fake proper installation into couplers on the station platform, and that supporting diaphragm walls were changed without authorisation.
Giving evidence in Australia via a video link, Rodgers, who left Leighton in April this year, said he was not aware of any single incident regarding defective bar-fixing work until June this year when the scandal erupted.
Rodgers was responsible for providing on-site coordination with subcontractors to ensure that all specifications were strictly followed.
However, Ian Pennicott, SC, QC, for the commission, presented him an email written by Jason Poon Chuk-hung in January 2017 to Leighton’s senior management about shoddy work at the Hung Hom site.
In the email, Poon alleged that Rodgers was “well aware” of the bar cutting malpractice and actually was “directing the activity”.
Poon is the managing director of subcontractor China Technology Corporation, which was hired by Leighton to do concreting work at the expanded station in 2015 and 2016.
In his witness statement to the commission, Rodgers said the allegation in the email was a “barefaced lie” and he “rejected it entirely”. He also denied having seen such an email.
“That statement or any statement to that effect, is categorically and completely false,” he said in his statement.
Subsequent to the email, Leighton carried out an internal investigation about the bar-cutting allegations, and key members from the construction and supervision teams were interviewed.
Rodgers said he was not approached by the investigators, despite being one of the key people involved in the project.
Yet in his statement, Rodgers described Poon as being an “aggressive and manipulative individual” and claimed that he and Poon had been arrested regarding a common assault case in March 2017.
Simon So, counsel for China Technology, clarified that it was in fact Rodgers who was charged for assaulting Poon and he was later bound over after Poon agreed to offer no evidence against him.
In his statement, Rodgers explained after Lunar New Year in 2017 some Leighton staff were brought in to clear Poon’s materials from the site, but Poon accused them of stealing the equipment. He approached Poon, and at some point, he responded by pushing him away.
“I have put it to you that Poon was simply never charged,” So asserted.
“OK. That’s fine. I just assumed that he was,” Rodgers said.
Rodgers also insisted that he was unaware of a non-conformance report being issued by Leighton to bar-fixing subcontractor Fang Sheung Construction in December 2015 regarding three to five occasions in which rebars were not fixed into the couplers and some rebar threads had been cut.
He explained that if the defective work was immediately tackled with remedial work, it was possible he was not alerted to the report by his site supervisors.
“If it was closed out immediately and it didn’t affect the programme, I might not have known about it,” he said of the report.
Richard Khaw, SC, for the government, asked if he had been aware of any incident in which Leighton hired direct labour for bar-fixing work at the site.
“No, not that I am aware,” Rodgers replied.
The hearing continues on Monday.