Construction firm’s winning bid an ‘alarm bell’: MP
MPs question why contractor of collapsed PIE viaduct was given job
Construction firm Or Kim Peow (OKP) was awarded the Pan-Island Expressway (PIE) project in November 2015 while being investigated over a fatal incident at Yio Chu Kang two months earlier.
The question of whether a contractor being investigated for a fatal worksite accident should be trusted with another job was raised by Members of Parliament yesterday, after an uncompleted viaduct of the PIE project collapsed on July 14, killing one worker and injuring 10.
Days before the viaduct collapsed last month, OKP was convicted of the 2015 fatality.
In Parliament yesterday, Senior Minister of State for Transport Lam Pin Min said the 2015 incident was taken into consideration during the bidding process, even if it was not clear if OKP was at fault.
Prior to the accident, the firm had a good track record and stayed accident-free for over 250,000 man-hours.
While OKP scored the lowest for quality in its project submission, its tender price of $94.6 million was the highest in price-quality score - a mix of safety record and bid price - and helped clinch the deal.
OKP's bid was 27 per cent lower than the next lowest bid of $129.7 million by Yongnam Engineering.
Two other bidders - Singapore Piling and Samwoh Corp - had submitted bids of $185 million and $193.7 million, respectively.
Non-Constituency MP Daniel Goh raised concerns over a vicious circle of contractors with a poor safety record lowering their bid to an unrealistic level, risking further safety lapses.
The materials are the same, the manpower is the same, and the wages are similar. The technology can’t be all that different - they are not using robots to build.
Workplace safety expert Raj Singh, who said that the price disparity in the bids for the PIE project was unusual
Dr Lam assured the House that since July 2015, when a further tightening of the evaluation process kicked in, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) has been able to veto bidders for poor safety performance alone. Since then, 16 bids from 10 companies have been vetoed, he said.
Marine Parade GRC MP Seah Kian Peng asked for a review of the tendering process and for more weightage to be given to recent accidents, notwithstanding incomplete investigations. Furthermore, Mr Seah pointed out that OKP's winning bid was substantially lower than the next lowest bid. "I think these are alarm bells," he said.
"I know we are always smarter on hindsight but I think ... that going forward, it should be instituted so that future tenders on this two-envelope system adhere to the principle and intention of why we have a two-envelope system."
Responding to Mr Seah, Dr Lam said that the LTA does review guidelines and make necessary changes according to needs, although significant amendments have to be approved by the Building and Construction Authority (BCA).
Workplace safety expert Raj Singh said the price disparity in the bids for the PIE project was unusual.
The founder of Safety@Work told The New Paper: "If the difference is of a certain percentage, you can call it a mark-up.
"The materials are the same, the manpower is the same, and the wages are similar. The technology can't be all that different - they are not using robots."
He hopes the latest fatal incident hammers home the message that workplace safety must be taken seriously.
Minister of State for Manpower Sam Tan said yesterday that the ministry kicked off a review of the Workplace Safety and Health Act earlier this year.
In reply to Tampines GRC MP Desmond Choo, Mr Tan said the target date for completion of the review is the end of the year.
The collapsed viaduct was constructed by a subsidiary of OKP Holdings, which announced on Monday that its revenue rose by 31.9 per cent for the first half of the year.
The group is working closely with the authorities on the investigations over the collapsed viaduct and its managing director Or Toh Wat said: "The group is currently assessing the damages and additional costs for this project. Moving forward, we will continue to deliver on existing projects."
Dr Lam told Parliament yesterday that although preliminary investigations pointed to the design of supporting structures called corbels as the cause of the July 14 collapse, MPs should let the investigation "take its due course".
He said investigations are slated to be completed in October, and the project will be put on hold till then.
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