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Government response to ICAC's arrest of staff members of a CEDD's outsourced laboratory for allegedly falsifying concrete test reports

     Regarding the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC)'s arrest of some staff members of a Civil Engineering and Development Department (CEDD)'s outsourced laboratory suspected to be involved in falsifying concrete test reports associated with the works under the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge (HZMB) Hong Kong and related projects, a spokesman for the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) Government yesterday (May 23) responded as follows:

     The HKSAR Government is highly concerned about the falsifying concrete test report incident. In view of the seriousness of the matter, relevant departments will follow up this matter seriously so as to ensure that the quality of the works meets the required standards and the structural safety is secured under the works of HZMB Hong Kong and related projects.

     In the middle of last year, a staff member of the CEDD responsible for overseeing that laboratory observed anomalies during his checking of concrete cube testing reports. After an internal investigation, the CEDD considered it necessary to refer the case to the ICAC for further follow-up action.

     According to the established procedures, the testing of construction materials under the public works projects has to be conducted by the Government laboratory. The Government laboratory is managed by the CEDD and its service is provided by the CEDD's staff or CEDD's outsourced service provider. The concerned laboratory as mentioned in ICAC's press release yesterday (May 23) is provided by the service provider outsourced by the CEDD for conducting the concrete compression tests and soil density tests under the HZMB Hong Kong projects (Hong Kong Boundary Crossing Facilities (HKBCF) and Hong Kong Link Road (HKLR)) and Tuen Mun-Chek Lap Kok Link (TMCLKL).

     The Government always places great importance to the quality of public works. Since the commencement of the HKBCF, HKLR and TMCLKL projects, the Highways Department (HyD) has stipulated very stringent quality standards on the adopted construction materials and sequence of works under its construction contracts. To ensure the quality of concrete meets the required standards, the resident site staff employed by the consultants of the HyD's closely supervise the contractors' implementation of the established procedures strictly in the delivery of concrete samples to the Government laboratory for testing.

     As the ICAC's investigation is underway, the Government is not able to obtain relevant information with respect to the relevant portion of works in relation to the suspected false concrete test results at this stage. To promptly address the concern of the public, upon realising the media enquiries to the arrest by the ICAC last Friday (May 19), the HyD has requested the resident site staff to conduct comprehensive examinations, i.e. non-destructive testing on the structures (including bridge decks, bridge piers, buildings and tunnel structures etc.) of the HKBCF, HKLR and TMCLKL projects so as to ascertain that the strength of concrete would meet the contract requirements. Up to now, all the testing results show that the tested structures are all in compliance with the required standard and the testing is ongoing. In addition, the resident site staff has completed by yesterday (May 23) all the visual inspections on the structures under the said three projects and confirmed that the structures were in sound conditions and no abnormalities (such as structural cracks) were identified.

     To further ease the concern of the public, the HyD will ask the resident site staff to continue the non-destructive testing on the concrete strength of structures on the above three projects in the coming two weeks for verification purpose. Priority would be given to the stress-critical locations of the structures to be followed by other locations. The HyD would also urgently engage an independent professional organisation to augment the manpower to facilitate the continuation of the non-destructive testing on the concrete strength of structures and to conduct professional assessment on the concrete structures under these three projects.

     At the same time, the Standing Committee on Concrete Technology of the CEDD will provide expert advice on the review actions (including testing and sampling methods, etc.) to be carried out by the HyD.

     After the incident, the CEDD has already scrutinised and enhanced the systems of that laboratory with an aim to prevent occurrence of similar incidents. Also, the CEDD has examined the test reports from other laboratories and no irregularities were found.

     Currently, relevant departments are looking into the case in-depth and soliciting more information in this connection. A press conference for provision of more details of the incident will be convened on May 25.

Ends/Wednesday, May 24, 2017