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Osaka to bar 400 contractors from city water service tenders for using cheap materials

Workers are seen at the site of sewage work ordered by the Osaka Municipal Government. (Photo courtesy of a contractor)

OSAKA -- Almost all contractors involved in water service works projects ordered by the Osaka Municipal Government in western Japan have gained illicit profits by using less expensive materials than those designated by the city to fill construction sites after excavation, those close to the city authority said.

The municipal government is set to bar about 400 companies involved in such wrongdoing from tenders for Osaka's waterworks projects for three months.

The Mainichi Shimbun reported in February 2018 that it was rampant that contractors falsely stated in their invoices that they used safer materials to fill roads they excavated for water service works, but actually used less expensive materials such as crushed stones to gain illicit profits.

In response, the Osaka Municipal Government examined some 1,100 waterworks construction and repair projects by the city completed from fiscal 2012, and confirmed such wrongdoing in at least 95 percent of the projects.

Since fiscal 2003, the municipal government has stated in its work specifications that improved soil must be used to fill roads after excavation for the construction and repair of tap water facilities. Improved soil refers to soil generated in excavation work that is mixed with lime to remove water and is confirmed not to contain any hazardous substances.

Improved soil is traded for 200 to 400 yen per metric ton, but crushed stones can be bought for about 50 yen per ton in Osaka.

"Apart from us, all other contractors were involved in such wrongdoing," admitted an official of one contractor in an interview with the Mainichi Shimbun. "We did something wrong, but it's impossible that the municipal government was unaware of the practices."

A former municipal government official admitted that they and their co-workers were aware of the cheating.

"Contractors didn't use improved soil. They filled roads using crushed stones or soil generated in excavation," the former official said. "All officials in charge turned a blind eye to such practices."

It has also come to light earlier that there are many cases where contractors failed to use materials designated by the municipal government in sewage works ordered by the city. The municipal government confirmed such wrongdoing in 171 out of 269 sewage works performed since fiscal 2012. The municipal government has barred 110 contractors involved in such illicit practices from tenders for sewage works ordered by the city and demanded a total of some 164 million yen in compensation from them.

(Japanese original by Koji Endo, City News Department)

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