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October 11, 2011

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Experts: Building oversight falls flat

SHANGHAI faces a serious shortage of independent professionals to supervise construction projects, local engineering and construction experts warned yesterday.

Practices that put quality and safety of buildings at risk still exist on a large scale, particularly in suburban districts, said experts from the building, engineering and real estate industries.

Key issues include the supposedly independent engineering supervisors actually being interested parties in projects they watch over, along with outright corruption where builders bribe supervisors to turn a blind eye to problems.

The experts, all members of the city's top political advisory body, have teamed up to appeal to the local government to address the problems and cultivate a culture of quality in the profession of supervising construction.

"During our investigation, we found that besides a serious shortage of engineering supervisors in Shanghai, many such companies are actually still affiliated with some suburban district construction departments," Tu Haiming, a real estate developer and member of the investigation team, said yesterday.

The investigators suggested that since many construction projects involved investment from the district government, the connection would make it difficult for the supervisors to independently carry out due diligence.

Laws suggested

Tu suggested that local government promote the idea that supervising companies in the future not be allowed to oversee projects in districts where the companies are registered.

Wang Yu, deputy director of the Shanghai Municipal Engineering Design Institute, warned that the shortage of professionals to supervise construction quality is "very serious." The experts said they also discovered through undercover investigations that some supervising companies took the service fee paid by the builder but performed almost no real work.

"We are not only lacking construction project supervisors, but as well the quality ones and more efficient technologies that should be applied in the supervision," said Hua Feng, an engineer, also on the team.

In the wake of the Jiaozhou Road inferno last November, the city government is working on a package of legislative moves and crackdowns to improve the construction industry and step up safety.

The fire in a downtown high-rise residential building under renovation killed 58 people.

Several laws specializing in construction safety and project quality are being formulated, and the city has enacted a recent rule to improve bidding and supervision.


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