The construction project for the Floating Island on Seoul's Han River has turned out to be riddled with "grave errors," the city's special audit team revealed on Thursday, prompting the city to discipline 15 officials in charge of the project.
The project to build the artificial islands in the middle of the river has been regarded as a cornerstone of Seoul's so-called Han River Renaissance Master Plan, ambitiously unveiled by former Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon in 2007.
After two and half years of construction with investments totaling 96.4 billion won ($83.7 million), the Floating Island was opened to the public in 2011. It features diverse facilities including a marina, a floating stage and exhibition halls.
Wrapping up the five-month special inspection of the island, the Seoul Metropolitan Government said the project failed to win the city council's approval by missing a voting process prior to its launch.
The city also amended contracts with the private firm in charge of the project twice to nearly double the amount of investment to 139 billion won and to extend the period of free lease hold for the company from 20 to 30 years, the audit found.
The private firm, for its part, was revealed to have exaggerated expenses for building facilities there to overcharge the city, according to the inspection results.
"The Floating Island will be recorded as the most problematic project invested by a private sector firm," Seoul's Deputy Mayor Kim Sang-bum said. "Comprehensive measures are inevitable to put it back on the right track."
The city said it will discipline 15 officials involved in the project and revise relevant laws to remove legal loopholes, but dismissed chances of suspending the operation of the islands.
Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon ordered the special inspection after learning belatedly that the city and the private firm agreed upon the amendment to the details of the contract late last year.
Upon his inauguration last November, Park ordered officials to reconsider the Han River Renaissance Master Plan, saying, "The paradigm of running the city will be changed from constructing buildings for the sake of display to creating a human-based community." (Yonhap)