National

Piling scandal probe may expand to other firms, minister hints

by Tomoko Otake

Staff Writer

Infrastructure minister Keiichi Ishii slammed Asahi Kasei Construction Materials Corp. on Friday following revelations of falsified construction records at three buildings in addition to a tilting condo in Yokohama and vowed to “investigate the issue thoroughly.”

Ishii also hinted at expanding a ministry probe into the company’s piling work, for which the data were faked, to projects undertaken by other firms.

“It is an extremely grave problem that different workers (from the Yokohama condo individual) were falsifying data in projects in different regions,” Ishii told reporters. “We think the firm had problems with its project management system all across the organization. We plan to thoroughly investigate the company’s piling work and its internal mechanism for checking projects, as well as its compliance with laws.”

On Thursday, the Hokkaido Prefectural Government opened an investigation into Asahi Kasei’s data-tampering involving pilings at two government-run apartment blocks in Kushiro.

The Yokohama Municipal Government meanwhile said the firm manipulated data on 15 piles at Akanedai Junior High School in Aoba Ward.

Asahi Kasei Construction Materials said a worker who tampered with the piling data at the two Hokkaido buildings is not the man at the center of a scandal at the tilting Park City Lala Yokohama. A third worker was involved in the piling work for the other building, the junior high school in Yokohama.

In the Yokohama condo case, the firm admitted to falsifying data for 70 piles. Eight of them have been found to be too short, in some cases because they do not descend to solid ground or not have not been driven deep enough into the ground.

The uproar showed no signs of abating Friday, as the Koto Ward Office in Tokyo announced that data appeared falsified on one of 46 piles under a junior high school there. The building is not tilting and has no cracks, ward officials said.

The infrastructure ministry will hold its first meeting of a panel tasked with looking into the technical issues surrounding the piling work on Wednesday. The nine members are mostly engineering professors and lawyers.

Meanwhile, Asahi Kasei Construction Materials canceled a Friday news conference to release the interim results of its probe into the 3,040 projects nationwide for which it has undertaken piling work over the past decade.

It is under orders from the ministry to report whether data manipulation took place at any of the sites by Nov. 13.

The firm earlier said it will release its progress on Friday.

Asahi Kasei Construction Materials also plans to release the results of its probe into 41 projects linked to the male employee who admitted falsifying records in the Yokohama condo on Monday.

Information from Kyodo added

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