Connivance with Substandard Works

Connivance with Substandard Works

An engineering company was awarded a contract to carry out waterproofing works to all bathroom floors of a newly constructed building, which was supervised by a clerk of works employed by an architectural firm.  In a water ponding test, the clerk of works discovered signs of water seepage at the ceiling of the lower floor, reflecting substandard waterproofing works.  To get substandard works accepted and certified, the proprietor of the engineering company paid a sum of money to and settled the entertainment expenses incurred by the clerk of works.

Offences Committed

The clerk of work is an agent of the architectural firm.  He accepted advantages (i.e. money and payment of expenses) from the proprietor of the engineering company for conniving at the latter’s substandard works, which was related to the affairs of the architectural firm (i.e. his principal).  Without the permission of the architectural firm to accept such advantages, he had contravened Section 9(1) of the Prevention of Bribery Ordinance (Cap. 201) (POBO).  The proprietor of the engineering company had also violated Section 9(2) of the POBO by offering the advantages under such circumstances.  Both the clerk of works and the proprietor of the engineering company were sentenced to imprisonment.

Case in Perspective

Site supervisory staff carry a pivotal role in ensuring the quality and safety of all construction works.  They should diligently inspect and check the works against the required standard, and require contractors to rectify any irregularities and defects identified.  In this case, however, the clerk of works breached the trust placed in him by his employer (i.e. the architectural firm) and abused his authority for personal gain.  Apart from prejudicing the interest of his employer, his act might also put public safety at stake. 

A company or an organisation implementing construction projects should put in place adequate safeguards to ensure proper works supervision by site supervisory staff.  For example,

(a) Draw up a comprehensive supervision plan to set out the critical works items requiring inspection, the frequency and the rank of staff responsible for such inspection;

(b) Require inspection staff to record the details of their inspections which should include time of inspection, location and description of works inspected, inspection results, etc.;

(c) Arrange independent technical audits on inspection work; and

(d) Issue guidelines on acceptance of advantages and entertainment, handling conflict of interest, etc.