Leighton Contractors (Asia), the entity responsible for building the underground platforms at Hung Hom Station for MTR Corporation’s HK$97.1 billion Shatin-Central Link (SCL) rail project, said on Monday that charges leveled against the company by a subcontractor on work-quality issues should not be taken at face value, and that it believes the allegations were an act of vengeance.
Appearing before a panel that is looking into the SCL project works scandal, a lawyer for Leighton said the firm suspects that the subcontractor who accused Leighton of wrongdoing may have had an ulterior motive.
The subcontractor may have been seeking to extract revenge as it had been denied a multi-million Hong Kong dollar construction payment by Leighton, the lawyer said.
Breaking its silence on the controversy surrounding the Hung Hom station works, Leighton suggested that it had been wrongly accused by a disgruntled subcontractor.
The comments came as the independent commission of inquiry held its first hearing session on Monday to investigate construction problems at SCL’s Hung Hom station underground platforms.
Lawyers representing Leighton and China Technology Corporation (CTC), Leighton’s subcontractor in charge of the Hung Hom Station platform extension and considered the whistleblower of the scandal, attended the hearing to present their case to the inquiry commission.
CTC counsel Simon So told the expert panel that the company’s managing director Jason Poon Chuk-hung and its employees had seen for themselves between August 2015 and June 2016 that some workers had purportedly cut short steel bars so that the bars could fit in the concrete walls of the platforms.
The workers performing the job were seen several times wearing the company vests of Leighton, according to So, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
So alleged that CTC had informed both Leighton and MTR about the sightings but had not received any positive response from them.
Dismissing such allegations bluntly, Leighton counsel Paul Shieh Wing-tai said the contractor had found problems in three occasions regarding eight steel bars and fixed them in a timely manner.
He did not specify what the problems were, but pointed out that CTC was the only one that claims to have detected the alleged steel bar cutting, and not MTR or two other subcontractors.
CTC’s testimony needs to be put under a microscope, given its uncorroborated claims, the lawyer suggested.
Shieh also questioned Poon’s credibility, arguing that Poon had changed his statements on the number of the steel bars that were allegedly cut.
Although the procedures on pouring the concrete at the Hung Hom Station began in the middle of 2016, Poon only mentioned it for the first time in January 2017, right when his company CTC was demanding a payment of HK$6 million from Leighton, the lawyer said.
Shieh wondered as to why CTC kept pouring the concrete if it found the steel bars problematic.
According to an RTHK report, Shieh noted that Poon claimed to have tens of thousands of video and photographs of the alleged bar cutting but eventually submitted only five with his witness statement.
The senior counsel said if Poon is such a whistleblower as he says he is, there would have been contemporaneous documents or complaints, only that there were none of them.
Sezen Chong, a lawyer representing another subcontractor Fang Sheung, said CTC employees are not qualified enough to judge whether steel bars were being cut short.
In related news, two pro-democracy lawmakers, Democratic Party’s Lam Cheuk-ting and Council Front’s Claudia Mo Man-ching, are set to invoke the Legislative Council (Powers and Privileges) Ordinance on Wednesday to demand that the independent inquiry commission examine the entire SCL construction project, rather than just the Hung Hom station works.
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