OAG says City Hall must do better on building safety

All Bangkok cinemas fail to meet standards

In July of last year, a major fire engulfed the Major Pinklao cinema complex during off-hours, injuring one person. (Photo by Chanat Katanyu)

The Office of the Auditor-General (OAG) is urging City Hall to strictly enforce building control and fire safety regulations after its audit report showed massive non-compliance despite notices.

In its recently-published report on the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration's (BMA) enforcement of building and fire safety laws, the OAG said the city administration faces problems in enforcing orders.

The report involves the BMA's enforcement of building rules during 2013-2015 and fire safety regulations in August last year.

As of Dec 27 last year, 82% of 3,372 buildings that were required to submit building inspection documents to the BMA's Public Work Department had failed to comply despite a 60-day notice period.

In the report, the OAG warned the BMA about this and pointed out the city administration needs to take measures to pressure building owners to comply with regulations.

As for fire safety, the OAG found all 330 cinemas in 44 buildings across the capital failed to meet legal requirements. They were inspected by the BMA during Aug 2-17 last year.

According to the OAG, non-compliance issues range from use of inflammable materials to lack of non-smoking signs and inadequate emergency lighting systems.

The BMA sent notices to cinema operators to take steps to address the flaws within one month. However, as of Dec 12 last year, 241 of them had done nothing to solve the problem while the remaining 89 operators sought to extend the deadline to fix the problem.

In the report, the OAG pointed out the BMA failed to enforce measures to ensure cinema operators comply with fire safety regulations.

The OAG report has also found the BMA failed to dismantle large billboards that have been illegally installed or failed to adhere to the designs submitted for approval.

As of Dec 28,2015, out of 1,067 large billboards, 241 (22.6%) were illegal. Of this number, 212 were erected without permission from district authorities while 30 others were not in accordance with approved designs.

The district of Lat Krabang had the most illegal billboards at 35.

According to the OAG, the BMA issued demolition orders for 31 billboards but despite the order, 25 illegal billboards remained.

In its report, the state auditor said the BMA lacks three databases necessary to effectively enforce the building and fire safety codes.

First, the City Hall needs a database for building control and management, according to the OAG. The database in question should contain details of each building such as type, age and number of floors.

The second database would have information necessary for building inspections. Currently each district has a "manual" which is not deemed enough.

The last database would deal with information necessary for follow-ups and monitoring.

According to the OAG, the BMA does not store cases of building code violations in a systematic manner. When city officials responsible for the cases are transferred, documents go missing or remain incomplete.

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