The Sacramento Bee has a(nother) article on the San Francisco – Oakland Bay Bridge project. It details how a Chinese construction company did not weld steel girders to the requirements, potentially jeopardizing the structural integrity of the bridge. Some of the eye-opening facts:
- ZPMC, the Chinese construction company hired to build the bridge girders had never built bridge girders before! They were awarded the contract because their bid was $250M below the next closest bid. Naturally the final cost was well over $250M higher.
- Caltrans, the government agency in charge, allowed ZPMC to ignore both welding codes as well as contractual requirements
- ZPMC was not penalized for failure, in fact, they were paid extra to work faster
- Several government workers were re-assigned after pointing out quality issues
- One lead executive for the government quit and joined a company involved in the project
The article implies government waste as government people lived quite well when traveling to China to check on manufacturing. It also implies criminal wrong-doing when it states the law enforcement officials are looking into things.
This project reminds me of the Maryland health exchange project in that an unqualified company won the contract (see here). I don’t know how government procurement officials could get this so wrong.
It also highlights one of the pitfalls in project status reporting. As noted here, even when risks are identified, leaders frequently fail to act.