After having been delayed three times, the troubled Braddell Road flyover project has a new deadline.
It is now slated to be completed by June, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) said yesterday. Its original deadline was end-2015.
A spokesman for LTA told The Straits Times that it had been working closely with the public works project's main contractor, Feng Ming Construction (FMC), to "rectify, review and improve" safety measures after a stop-work order (SWO) stalled progress on Feb 23.
Safety inspectors from the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) discovered several safety violations during a random spot check at the worksite. The SWO was lifted on March 8, and the works have now fully resumed, said LTA .
FMC director Lim Hong Beng told The Straits Times his firm would complete the project at all cost.
He said in Mandarin: "There is no need to worry that we will abandon the project - this is a government job, and it shall be completed. True gold does not fear the test of fire."
But he declined to comment on revelations about another SWO that was issued to his company from July 11 to Aug 4 last year at the same worksite, because of a height-related safety issue.
The Straits Times also found that another public works project contracted to FMC to widen a 900m portion of the Alexandra Canal has been delayed as well.
Started at end-2014, it was due to be completed last year.
The deadline has been pushed back to the third quarter of this year, because of the need to divert services in the constricted area, said national water agency PUB.
Since the Braddell Road flyover project was commissioned in 2012, it has been fraught with delays.
The first contractor, Hexagroup, ran into financial difficulties. This resulted in a temporary stoppage of work.
FMC won the second tender in 2015. Works were expected to be completed by the end of last year, but were again extended, to March.
These delays and issues surrounding FMC have raised questions as to why it was picked in the first place, especially since the two firms appear to be linked (see other report).
This comes even as the authorities step up penalties for SWOs, following concerns over high numbers of workplace fatalities.
Last year, 130 SWOs were issued. Six were handed out in the first two months of this year.
More than 1,300 inspections are carried out each month.
Five demerit points were issued for each SWO for the Braddell site, bringing the total number of demerit points awarded to FMC to 10, said an MOM spokesman.
Any contractor that accumulates 25 demerit points will be barred from tendering for new jobs.
Applications for foreign workers' work passes will also be denied, and the business will be placed under a surveillance programme.
LTA will also review the reasons for project delays, and "evaluate if there is a need to seek compensation from the contractor", its spokesman said.
The executive director of the Singapore Contractors Association, Mr Lam Kong Hong, said that while MOM's spot checks do disrupt operations, those that manage their worksites well are usually spared targeted inspections.
Repeated delays put spotlight on firms' connection
The repeated delays to the Braddell Road flyover works have tossed up the question of why Feng Ming Construction (FMC) won the second public tender to complete the project, which was left behind by Hexagroup when it ran into financial woes.
Explaining the tendering process, a spokesman for the Land Transport Authority (LTA) said it looks at contractors' "safety, financial capacity, availability of technical personnel, proof of management standards and project track records, before they are allowed to bid for public-sector construction projects".
FMC was one of three bidders that met its requirements and was awarded the tender as it submitted the most cost-effective bid at $29.9 million, the spokesman said.
Checks by The Straits Times show that FMC, which was established in 1989, has a good track record in completing multimillion-dollar construction projects for government agencies.
But company records show a link between FMC and Hexagroup, which is currently winding up. FMC director Lim Hong Beng had co-owned a company, Lim Hong Beng Construction, with Hexagroup director Lim Hong Lam in 1984. And the second Hexagroup director, Mr Lim Hong Leong, had served as director of FMC from 1997 to 2006.
When asked if they were relatives, because of their similar names, Mr Lim Hong Beng neither confirmed nor denied the relationship. He said in Mandarin: "In this industry, a lot of local companies are linked by family ties, but this should not matter as they are completely different entities."
The LTA also said that both companies were not related at the time of the tender bid. "Based on records by the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority, Hexagroup and FMC were separate commercial entities with no common directors and shareholders when FMC submitted its tender bid in March 2015," said the spokesman.
Mr Robson Lee, partner at law firm Gibson Dunn, said there are no government procurement rules against re-awarding incomplete tenders to firms with family ties.
But he added that this case raises questions about whether the public tender process was fair to the other bidders.
"The spirit of the public tender process is that bidders should not have an advantage of having more information than what is in the tender," he said. "This could be information about the projected cost of the project, for example."
Stop-work orders issued last year.
Inspections carried out each month.
This article was first published on March 17, 2017.
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