Bad management to blame for Yokohama piling scandal, interim report says

by

Staff Writer

A third-party panel looking into the piling data scandal at Asahi Kasei Construction Materials Corp. concluded Friday that sloppy management encouraged data manipulation but withheld judgment on whether its workers tried to cover up defects.

The panel’s interim report, released Friday, also failed to resolve the long-standing mystery of whether the tilting tower at the Park City Lala Yokohama condominium complex in Tsuzuki Ward, Yokohama, was directly linked to the scandal.

The results released by the three-member panel, which comprises outside lawyers with no interest in the contractor, followed a 2 ½-month investigation that was triggered by the data falsification discovered at the condo. The scandal soon spread nationwide as other piling projects conducted by Asahi Kasei Construction Materials and other firms were found to have similar problems. The cases involved workers doctoring reports to make up for missing or lost data.

In compiling the 49-page report, the panel interviewed 11 individuals who worked at the Yokohama condo and four outside architectural and piling experts.

The panel concluded that the workers involved, including an on-site manager on loan from a subcontractor further down the multi-layer contracting network who worked at the Yokohama condo, lacked the awareness needed for piling data to be appropriately recorded and saved.

The workers have testified that they believed that the piling work itself was sound, based on other empirical evidence, such as changes in vibrations and sounds emanating from drilling equipment that suggested they had reached bedrock.

Such widespread neglect of data, however, “betrays the residents’ confidence in the safety of buildings,” the report said.

The on-site manager said he used data from another project when recording data that was supposed to come from a piece of equipment that measures electric currents and a device that shows the volume of cement used in piles.

“Mr. A (the on-site manager) says he did not manipulate data to cover up faulty work, such as piles not reaching solid ground or being not sufficiently driven into the ground,” the report said. “But it is this panel’s conclusion . . . that such matters require further investigation.”

The lawyers also said Asahi Kasei Construction Materials was responsible for failing to properly manage the situation, by not educating the workers on the importance of maintaining accurate raw data and letting the sloppy practices go unattended for years.

Toshio Asano, president of Asahi Kasei Corp., the parent firm of the piling contractor, released a comment saying the firm “takes the report’s conclusion sincerely and will immediately work to prevent recurrences of similar incidents in the future.”

  • Roy Warner

    Just out of curiosity, as it were, are nuclear power plants in Japan built with pilings?