The Hong Kong government has contacted law enforcement about suspected fraud involving the disgraced contractor for a cross-border mega bridge project.
An engineering consultancy firm notified the Civil Engineering and Development Department and the Highways Department in December that there may have been breaches in the design phases of its contracts for some of its ongoing slope improvement projects, the Development Bureau said on Thursday.
The contracts were awarded by the government. The bureau declined to comment further, noting the cases might involve criminal elements, and said the departments had reported them to law enforcement.
It added that it had finished reviewing all slope design reports from the consultancy concerned and had confirmed they met the requirements and there were no safety issues.
“The departments were very concerned about the cases and were examining whether it was necessary to take appropriate regulating actions against the concerned consultant according to the existing mechanism for monitoring the performance of consultants of public works,” the bureau said.
A report by Chinese-language newspaper Apple Daily on Thursday identified the firm as Jacobs China.
The article said signatures of third-party engineers in some of the reports Jacobs submitted to the government were suspected to have been forged. The engineers were required to monitor the projects as independent parties.
One of the independent engineers was Lau Chi-keung, a director of James Lau & Associates and Fong On Construction, who said there were “issues” with the signature process. Lau, who declined to elaborate on the issues, would not say if forgery of his signature was involved.
“I felt a bit awkward when learning about the issues,” Lau told the Post. “The issues have been rectified recently, but I don’t know the details.”
Lau said his business ties with Jacobs went back more than a decade, and the pair had yet to come across any issues such as these before.
“If Jacobs gives me a report to advise on tomorrow, I’ll still handle it,” he said.
Lau said he “did not recall offhand” which project was involved and when, adding that he had acted as an independent checking engineer for many projects involving different companies.
The Post contacted Jacobs for comment.
The firm won an HK$8.8 million government contract to prevent landslip and related mitigation works last November, with completion due in 2024.
Jacobs was the firm commissioned by the government to conduct various compliance tests on concrete cubes during the multibillion-dollar construction of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge.
In 2017, 19 of its employees at a lab were charged for faking test results on the strength of concrete bricks used to build the bridge between 2012 and 2016. Some of them were jailed, while trials for others are ongoing.
In June 2017, the firm was banned from bidding for government contracts for one year following the scandal.
The consultancy firm is part of US-based Jacobs Engineering Group, which employs about 74,400 people worldwide and made around US$15 billion in revenue in the 2018 financial year.
A spokesman from the city’s Independent Commission Against Corruption said it would not comment on individual incidents.
Police did not comment.