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Are the trio of mishaps of three brand new govt buildings in the past three weeks “tip of the iceberg” which portend even more disastrous mishaps in the near future with grave consequences to life, limb and property?

Media Statement (2)       
by Lim Kit Siang  


(Parliament, Wednesday) : Transparency International Malaysia President Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam has said that the recent collapse at three new government buildings is symptomatic of the state of deterioration in standards, quality, productivity and efficiency in the country.

He said that there’s too much concern to make a quick buck and too little attention given to professionalism and warned that this could be “tip of the iceberg”.

Ramon is eminently qualified to pass such a stricture on the public service delivery system as he was one of the last top non-Malay civil servants, at a time when the Malaysian public service was still identified with quality and world-class standards.

The question posed by Ramon is uppermost in the minds of Malaysians – whether the trio of mishaps of three brand new government buildings in the past three weeks are mere “tip of the iceberg” which portend even more disastrous mishaps in the near future with grave consequences to life, limb and property?

In actual fact, there had been quite a catalogue of construction mishaps in the past three months, as apart from the recent trio - the flooding of the seven-floor Immigration Department headquarters in Putrajaya because of plumbing failure, the collapse of a ceiling at the Entrepreneur and Co-operative Development Ministry in Putrajaya and the ceiling collapse in a secretary’s room at the world’s largest court complex at the Jalan Duta court complex – other mishaps involving brand-new government buildings and public projects or those under construction included the Parliament (ceiling collapse as a result of pipe leakage),  Matrade Building, MRR2, fungus in new hospitals, the navy complex fiasco, smart lab fiasco, etc.

The Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has called for the Public Works Department to inspect all government buildings nationwide while the Works Minister, Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu has welcomed the call and praised the Prime Minister’s for his wisdom!

This is most ridiculous and outrageous. How did Malaysia descend so quick and fast in the past three years down the slippery slope of a third-world nation, not only in the maintenance culture but in the deterioration in standards, quality, productivity and efficiency in the public service delivery system?

One important reason for such a shocking state of affairs in the public service is the deplorable culture of impunity for negligence, failure and even corruption – as testified by the scandal that no one had been hauled to the courts to the price for the probably one of the longest government list of failures for public buildings and constructions for a country reputed to be have “first-class infrastructure” and for a time the world’s tallest twin towers!

Can Samy Vellu, for instance, give an iron-clad guarantee that there will not be another collapse in brand-new government buildings or public construction projects or he will resign to accept responsibility for the shocking public in standards, quality, productivity and efficiency in public works directly under his charge?

Visitors to my blog on “Public building mishaps – once is accident, twice is coincidence, thrice is systemic government collapse” have made very pointed and pertinent comments and analysis superior to all the comments which have been made by Cabinet Ministers, and the Prime Minister and the entire Cabinet are well-advised to keep in touch with the pulse of nation by diligently and conscientiously follow developments relevant to their ministries in the Malaysian blogosphere.

Unfortunately, despite the government promotion of Information and Communications Technology, we have Cabinet Ministers who are so antediluvian as to want bloggers to be ignored if not silenced.

The following are a sample of some of the perceptive and pertinent comments on this subject which deserve the attention of the Prime Minister and his Works Minister and should be the basis for discussion by Ministers in their next Cabinet meeting on this subject:

1. Collapse of structures in new buildings are not due to poor maintenance. New structures should not disintegrate so fast. The problems are due to poor construction, simple. And poor construction are due to poor workmanship. Poor workmanship are due to bad contractors. Bad contractors are due to bad systems of awarding contracts. And bad system of awarding contracts are caused by a bad public delivery system. And bad public delivery system are due to a bad Govt which practises NEP cronyism and corruption which breeds the bad system of contract awards. Matrade Building, MRR2, fungus in new hospitals, the navy complex fiasco, smart lab fiasco, shit, the list is endless.

2. They are looking at the wrong end of the problem.

It all starts when you award a turnkey project without open tenders to a crony who does nothing except sell it off at a reduced price so that instant rewards are attained.

Now it is a major situation as there is little you can do about substandard foundations and pipe fittings and substandard equipment.

Expect more disasters.

3. It is a shame to have such adverse reports on poor quality of work done in government buildings. If such things happen in the private sector, there will be rolling of heads.

The people responsible should be held accountable and the government should punish those responsible and review the overall tender system. This is clearly a result of mediocratic policy and a practice of patronage which have caused wastages, danger to lives, bad image to the country and worse…the rakyat suffers as their tax money is being used to pay for such sloppy work instead of generating for more productive use.

4. With all these water leakages causing so much havoc, dare anyone use the up to 12km SMART tunnel when it is soon open?

Will the storm water causes the ceiling and walls of the tunnel to break and flood the whole tunnel and causing havoc within it?

Will such a catastrophe ever occur? Normally, no. But given the standard of our technology and our poor workmanship, where highways crack open, overpasses are not safe, ceilings collapsing etc etc, there might be a very good chance the tunnel might not be safe. Will and can Samy Vellu and the government guarantee it?

When Parliament reconvenes on Monday, Samy Vellu should present a Ministerial statement to respond to all the pertinent and pointed criticisms about the deplorable plunge in public service standards,  quality, productivity and efficiency pertaining to the Public Works Department and to lay out his ministry’s strategy to ensure that the trio of recent government building mishaps would not be the  “tip of the iceberg” paving the way for even more disastrous mishaps in the near future with grave consequences to life, limb and property!


* Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman

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