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January 12, 2011

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Overhaul of construction rules

THE Shanghai government yesterday announced the launch of a one-year citywide campaign to stop government departments from being involved with construction-industry companies in anything but an official capacity.

Local government officials said over the years, all city-level government departments have halted investment in any construction-related -companies, but such connections still exist at -district level in some areas.

The act orders all government departments to separate from any construction business operations they have owned or invested in. The deadline comes at the end of this year.

The practice has been blamed for creating a hotbed of corruption where a blind eye is turned to many violations or approval for projects is given to companies in which district authorities or officials were involved with or had invested in.

The project constructor and supervisor involved in the November 15 fire are both connected to the district construction department, officials said yesterday.

Shanghai officials said investigations following the inferno also highlighted the need for urgent action to revamp the -construction industry. As a result, the campaign will also focus on improving safety standards and stamping out illegal sub-contracting

The local government has now passed a special act to support the initiatives, ordering immediate action be taken by the construction and production safety watchdogs to fix safety violations that exist on constructions sites as well as during a project's -contracting stage.

Watchdogs will now monitor the contracting procedures, qualifications of constructors, safety of materials used and on-site safety standards. Projects detected to have legal or safety flaws will be suspended. Those in charge of the construction companies or government officials illegally approving such projects will face punishment upon discovery of serious violations.

"Our investigations have discovered a fault in the city's construction market: compared with standard construction projects, renovations of some old buildings are much less supervised and are not even reported to construction watchdogs for approval before getting started," Huang Rong, director of Shanghai Urban and Rural Construction and Transport Commission, said yesterday.

All construction project operators in the city must now also report in detail their sub-contracting practices to the relevant authorities.

"By beefing up the supervision mechanisms, we aim to stop -illegal sub-contracting, which is one of the most serious issues in the industry that poses a risk to the public's safety," Huang said.

"Illegal sub-contracting is dangerous because it can allow unprofessional individuals to work on projects."

The act also requires all supervising companies to now report on a monthly basis to government watchdogs. Project supervisors must report safety issues they have detected.


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