The New Power Party (NPP) yesterday criticized the bridge inspection practices in New Taipei City, saying that one inspection team repeatedly rated its own inspections, despite government regulations requiring a third-party reviewer.
The team, led by Chen Ming-cheng (陳明正), a professor at Chien Hsin University of Science and Technology, and Chang Tsai-chen (張綵宸), has been hired to conduct regular safety inspections on bridges in various parts of Taiwan, both under the university’s name as well as that of a company, Wangchiaofeng, NPP caucus whip Huan Kuo-chang (黃國昌) told a news conference in at the Legislative Yuan in Taipei.
Among the bridges the team inspected was the Nanfangao Bridge (南方澳橋), which killed six people when it collapsed on Tuesday last week, he said.
A recent report from the team on the bridge stated that its cables — which are suspected of being a major cause of the collapse — were in good conditions, although the team allegedly did not actually inspect them, he said.
The New Taipei City Government has hired the team to conduct bridge inspections in Sanchong (三重), Tamsui (淡水), Sanjhih (三芝), Shihmen (石門), Jinshan (金山), Wanli (萬里), Banciao (板橋), Shuangsi (雙溪), Pingsi (平溪) and Gongliao (貢寮) districts, said Lai Chia-lun (賴嘉倫), who is running for one of the city’s legislative seats.
Although the Ministry of Transportation and Communications requires safety inspectors to be reviewed by an independent third party, the city hired the team to review its own work, Lai said.
“Quality control and quality assurance are done by the same team. What happened to an independent third party?” he said.
To make matters worse, the reports the team submitted on some of the bridges were “poorly written and difficult to read,” he said.
NPP member Chang Wei-hang, who is also running for one of the city’s legislative seats, said the team scored its own work between 99 and 100 out of a possible 100 in two reports it submitted 2016, which covered bridges in six districts.
The ministry rated the reports as excellent by the ministry, but the government later found serious damage to one of the bridges that the reports had failed to mention, Chang said.
The team also used old photographs of the bridges in its reports instead of recent ones, he said.
“This shows the quality assurance was poorly done and we have reasons to believe there is a need to launch a new round of inspections for all bridges in the districts to ensure the safety of road users,” he said.
Directorate-General of Highways official Yang Ping-shun (楊秉順) told the news conference that having the same team that conducts an inspection then review its own work raises concerns about neutrality.
The agency has no tolerance for such practice, but whether it is illegal should be determined by the ministry, he said.