Vietnam police step in after exposure of dubious highway

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A pole being pulled for inspection after Thanh Nien revealed shoddy construction at a section of the Ho Chi Minh City Long Thanh Dau Giay Expressway. The section is scheduled to open on December 30./PHOTO: DAM HUY

Following Thanh Nien's exposure of the dubious quality of a major expressway in Ho Chi Minh City, police have stepped in to investigate.

 Three companies and 11 people, including foreigners, have been disciplined in the case that has raised suspicions of graft and the siphoning-off of construction materials.

Representatives of the Ministry of Public Security's Department for Economic Security met with Thanh Nien reporters on Friday to collect all information and documents related to their findings about the 55-km HCMC Long Thanh Dau Giay Expressway connecting HCMC and Dong Nai Province.

Following a tip-off from an ex-worker with the project, Thanh Nien  found that a number of concrete and metal barriers and center dividers on a 20-kilometer section of the expressway -- a section slated to open for traffic on December 30 -- were not built following approved designs.

The concrete blocks, to be buried in the ground to hold metal poles upright, are much smaller than they should be, and the metal poles have been improperly placed in the blocks.

The VND20 trillion (US$950 million) expressway is co-financed by the Asian Development Bank and Japan Bank for International Cooperation.

On Thursday, the project investor Vietnam Expressway Corporation (VEC) announced that they had issued warnings to the contractor South Korean-owned Posco E&C Vietnam Company.

The contractor has to repair the substandard barriers and dividers that have been estimated to cost VND240 million as of December 30, VEC said in a report to the Ministry of Transport.

A team in charge of the barrier and divider construction, including its chief Nguyen Nhat Nguyen and deputy chief Tran Minh Cuong, has been removed from the project and will be prohibited from participating in future VEC projects.

Sang Hoon-lee, manager of Package 3 -- which includes the troubled section -- was rebuked, while Cho Yang-cook, construction manager of the package, was suspended from his job

VEC also censured the project's supervisor and consultant a joint venture between Japanese-owned Nippon Koei and Vietnamese-owned TEDI South.

Tatsuya Okamura, manager of consultancy and supervision, and Nguyen The Vuong, an assistant engineer, received warnings.

Dang Quoc Thang, a supervising engineer, was suspended from his job.

In the meantime, the project's management board was censured while Pham Hong Quang, deputy director general of VEC, Le Manh Hung, director of the management board, vice director Ngo Tan Quang, and engineer Pham Hong Linh have all disciplined.

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