National

Asahi Kasei piling scandal grows to at least 50 workers, 266 sites

by Tomoko Otake

Staff Writer

More than 50 employees at Asahi Kasei Construction Materials Corp. manipulated data in at least 266 piling projects the contractor undertook over the past 10 years, its parent Asahi Kasei Corp. announced Friday.

This suggests data falsification was pervasive at the subcontractor, contradicting the firm’s earlier claim that a single employee may have been responsible.

“We feel sincerely sorry for the fact that this many people were involved in this many projects, and for allowing such (misconduct) to happen,” Masahito Hirai, vice president of Asahi Kasei, told a packed news conference in Tokyo.

Friday’s announcement, however, was incomplete.

The Tokyo-based construction firm had been ordered by the infrastructure ministry to report by the same day on how many of the 3,040 piling projects it has handled over the past decade involved falsified data.

But the firm could only report and disclose the status for 2,376 of the projects, and data tampering was confirmed in 266 of the buildings.

Of the remainder, the firm is still in the process of confirming details with general contractors for 546 projects, while it has not been able to track down the names of contractors or the existence of piling data for 118 other projects, Asahi Kasei said.

Of the projects not yet accounted for, the firm will report their status to the ministry by Nov. 24, it said.

Among the 602 schools, hospitals and welfare facilities, for which the ministry ordered a swift disclosure, some 10 percent, or 63 facilities, have had their piling data falsified.

Among the 266 projects where data were falsified, the firm has not discovered problems like tilting except at the Park City Lala Yokohama complex in Tsuzuki Ward, Yokohama.

As for why the employees tampered with the data, the firm stood firm on its position that the employees were confident about their piling work per se, but merely borrowed data from other projects because of improper data management.

“Roughly three reasons have been reported (for the missing data),” Asahi Kasei executive officer Nobuyuki Kakizawa said. “For one, the paper on which the piling data was printed got soaked in the rain or the paper got jammed in the printers,” he said. “Second, the employees forgot or were late in switching on the printers. And third, the data was not properly managed, such as the workers keeping the printouts in their pockets or leaving them in offices.”

Earlier Friday, infrastructure minister Keiichi Ishii urged other firms involved in the Yokohama case — including general contractor Sumitomo Mitsui Construction Co. and condo developer Mitsui Fudosan Residential Co. — to be forthcoming with information disclosure. Sumitomo Mitsui Construction hired Asahi Kasei Construction Materials as a subcontractor to handle the piling work at the Yokohama condo complex, while Mitsui Fudosan Residential was responsible for selling the units.

“Developers have the duty to provide safe buildings to consumers, and contractors need to properly manage construction projects,” Ishii said.

The two firms have drawn criticism recently because they have not held news conferences specifically for answering reporters’ questions on the condo issue, except at conferences held earlier this month to announce their earnings reports

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