Parliament: Probe into PIE viaduct collapse to conclude in October

The uncompleted PIE highway after the collapse. PHOTO: ST FILE
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Worker drilling both ends of failed viaduct on July 18.

SINGAPORE - Investigations into the fatal Pan-Island Expressway viaduct collapse will be completed in October, said Senior Minister of State for Transport Lam Pin Min during a debate which revealed that the contractor Or Kim Peow (OKP) had the lowest quality score among qualified bidders.

Dr Lam told Parliament on Tuesday (Aug 1) that although preliminary investigations pointed to the design of supporting structures called corbels as the cause of the collapse on July 14 which killed one worker and injured 10 others, MPs should let investigations "take its due course".

He said the uncompleted viaduct project will be on hold until investigations are over.

Minister of State for Manpower Sam Tan later told the House his ministry has started a review of laws on workplace safety, and aims to complete it by the end of the year.

The viaduct collapse dominated question time on Tuesday, with MPs scrutinising the price-quality tender system and workplace safety.

Asked why main contractor OKP was awarded the project despite having a fatal incident in 2015, Dr Lam said investigations to that incident - where a worker died after falling from a 6m-high platform - had not concluded when the tender was awarded.

He added that OKP had a good 10-year safety record before the 2015 incident, and had also submitted the lowest bid.

To this, Mr Seah Kian Peng (Marine Parade GRC) said notwithstanding a bidder's track record, weightage should be given to recent safety incidents even if findings had not been concluded. 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 these are serious lessons and serious enough 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."

Dr Lam revealed that a price-quality ratio of 70:30 was used to assess bids for the ill-fated viaduct project. Of the quality component, the Land Transport Authority assigned 25 per cent to safety.

He noted that OKP "actually scored the lowest for quality in the project submission".

Responding to Mr Seah, he said the LTA does review the guidelines to make necessary changes. It will have to seek approval from BCA to make significant changes, he added.

Workers' Party non-constituency MP Daniel Goh asked if contractors who expect to score poorly for safety will lower their bid price "to an unrealistic level and therefore risking further safety lapses", and whether a review of the price-quality method was therefore necessary.

Dr Lam said the LTA "does not bar contractors which have safety lapses or are blacklisted" from participating in tenders.

"Their quality envelopes will still be opened and assessed objectively and any safety lapses will then be penalised under the safety component accordingly," he said, adding that LTA board members can veto decisions on the basis of poor safety.

Post-incident checks revealed cracks at 11 other locations along the failed viaduct. It has also emerged that a consultant from CPG - OKP's subcontractor - who designed the viaduct was also the supervisor who checked the construction works.

While not illegal, industry players said this practice was not ideal.

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