Saturday, January 28, 2006

SAMY: Only I can Approve Project!

Which PWD project is not approved by the Work Minister?

MRRII, Cameron Highland roads (where the slope collapsed), Simpang Pulai-Lojing-Ayer Raja Road (slope failures), East-West Highway (slope failures), North-South Highway (rockfalls & mudslides), and include all those projects that had been terminated, abandoned, or failed, such as the Hospital Tun Aminah, Cameron Highland Hospital, School projects, etc. Of course we can exclude projects such as Matrade Building, Computer Labs, and Army Camp Gemas which are awarded to PMC by the relevant Ministries.

Now, Samy said he wants all road projects that involve cutting into hillslopes to get the approval of the Works Minister. The new directive covered the construction of reserve areas for road-widening projects along hilly and coastal areas. All Public Works Department (PWD) heads have also been directed to get his personal approval for every road development project close to hillsides.

“We want to ensure there is no indiscriminate cutting of hillslopes,” Samy said.

Commenting on the on-going road-widening project on the hilly Tanjung Tokong-Batu Ferringhi road in Penang, Samy Vellu said the ministry had decided to relax width requirements on the road reserve along the stretch to protect the hills. “If we were to follow the PWD’s standard requirement, the project would result in the cutting of hills in Batu Feringghi. “We don’t want this to happen and have decided to reduce the required road-reserve width from 19.8m to only 15m to save the hills along the 15km stretch,” he said.

So, with the new directives, the Work Minister is empowered to twist and bend the code of practice, rules and regulations to suit. What is needed now is to Kau Tim him and you can have road reserve at 15m or even less, maybe, no need to have road reserve at all.

I thought if any land is inadequate to meet the requirements of road reserve, for reasons such as safety of hill-slopes, then the road should not be allowed to be built or approved. Instead, an innovative solution is provided so as to facilitate approval. If that's the case, the code of practice and regulations should be amended; not by way of unfetted discretion which will lead to abuse of power. A soultion to a problem will breed new and far potent problems (Murphy's Law).

Friday, January 27, 2006

Maju Holding sues Lawyer

Maju Holding Sues Lawyer

Lawyer Rosmaniza Osman of Roz and Associate and Rozalind Sakunthala Rajan were jointly charged in the Court today with criminal breach of trust involving RM3 million belonging to Maju Holdings Sdn Bhd.

The funds were believed to have been part of a bid by the construction and steel conglomerate for a major government construction project worth more than RM320 million. Rosmaniza and Rozalind, who were handcuffed together, claimed trial. The complainant was Mohd Fuad Yon, a director of Maju Holdings.

Deputy public prosecutor Awang Armadajaya Awang Mahmud applied for bail at RM3 million in two sureties each. Judge Rosenani Abd Rahman set bail at RM250,000 each and fixed July 24 to 26 for hearing.

What is the story behind the suit?

It was learnt that the lawyer had convinced Tan Sri Abu Sahid that she has the "Right Connection" to assist Maju Holding to secure the RM320 million Resource Center project from Bank Negara and the Kau Tim Fees is RM3 million.

The project was ultimately awarded to a minnow company H & L Niaga Sdn Bhd.

The award surprised major construction companies which had been bidding for the large project, like Ahmad Zaki Resources Bhd, PECD Bhd, Ranhill Bhd and UEM Builders Bhd.

You believe it? A small time lawyer have the ability to influence the award of a mega project from Bank Negara? And even giant and influencial and well-connected Tan Sri Abu Sahid also need to Kau Tim someone to secure a project?

H & I Niaga is owned by Amerudin Ismail (2mil shares) and Ismail Mohd Hashim (3mil shares). H & I Niaga was involved in the problematic project involving the construction of the Royal Malaysian Navy Recruit Training Centre in Kota Tinggi Johor. They are also the contractor for Cheras Velodrome Project and some projects awarded by UiTM.

On 11th October 2005, NST BizTimes reported that H & I Niaga had failed to pay levy owed to CIDB. The company had also failed to submit its profit and loss accounts for the past 3 years to Companies Commission Malaysia and had failed to file its accounts for the financial years ending December 31, 2002 to 2004.

On 18th October (NST report), H & I Niaga issued a two-page statement to explain the issues raised. The company said while it was involved in building the Royal Malaysian Navy Recruit Training Centre in Johor, it was not involved in the construction of the defective roof structure of the hall complex. H & I Niaga went on to say reports of it being reprimanded by government ministers over the Cheras Velodrome project were also untrue as it had completed its job to upgrade and renovate the facility within the stipulated time and had even been given letters of appreciation for the job. The company also answered Fomca’s query on its failure to file its accounts for the years 2002, 2003 and 2004 with the Companies Commission of Malaysia (CCM).

H & I Niaga said it had run into technical difficulties in 2003 when it upgraded its integrated accounts and contracting software from the old DOS standard to the latest Windows version, causing a two-year delay in the filing of its profit and loss accounts.

“The security limitations of the software package only allowed us to input two months of transactions monthly. “As a result, we faced a massive backlog of transactions that need to be input into our new accounting system,” H & I managing director Ismail Mohd Hashim said in the statement. He went on to say that the matter had been highlighted in each of its project tender interviews. H & I Niaga is said to have since resolved the problem and has submitted the company’s audited accounts for the years 2002 and 2003 to CCM, while the final accounts for the financial year ended December 31 2004 have been audited and are pending submission. With regard to the payment of levy to the Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB), H & I Niaga clarified that the levy was for its UiTM Engineering Complex project in Shah Alam which the company and CIDB had agreed upon for H & I Niaga to pay via instalments. “H & I Niaga has paid the instalments until certain disputes with the client arose. H & I Niaga will resolve this issue before October 25 as allowed for by CIDB,” Ismail said.

BANK Negara Malaysia on the same day (18th October 2005, NST) came out to defend its award of a multi-million ringgit contract to construction firm H & I Niaga Sdn Bhd, saying the company was qualified to do the job. The central bank issued a statement yesterday, saying H & I Niaga won the RM320 million contract to build Bank Negara’s resource centre based on merit. “All tenders were reviewed to determine the most competitive bid and the company selected, H & I Niaga Sdn Bhd, is qualified with the ability to complete the project within Bank Negara Malaysia’s specifications,” Bank Negara said. Among the criteria Bank Negara said it had looked into were tender price, track record, financial capability, quality, technical and commercial capabilities of the team that were put together to complete the project.

Monday, January 9, 2006

Plaza Damas Probe Committee

Former Public Works Department (PWD) Director-General Tan Sri Omar Ibrahim was appointed by the Works Minister Datuk Seri Samy Vellu to be the chairman of the committee that will probe into the accident that killed management consultant Dr Liew Boon Horng.

This committee was set up within the Malaysian Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB) as the Investigations Committee and will include current PWD Deputy Director-General II Dr Judin Abdul Karim and PWD Director of Expert and Civil Engineering Branch P.N. Selvanayagam. Other members of the committee would be selected by Tan Sri Omar in consultation with the Works Minister and the CIDB.

I am sure Tan Sri Omar, a person who commands high respect, will do his job thoroughly and efficiently. Tan Sri Omar is recognised as a NO-Nonsense guy and he doesn't curry flavour or compromise his integrity.

But what suprised me is two key elements:

First, why is CIDB involved in such investigation? In the first place, CIDB had never shown to be involved actively in monitoring or controlling the construction projects in whatever role that can tangibly be said to have proactively, nor productively, being a partner of the industry other than to spent time in India trying to secure some projects and selling it to the few high profile Malaysian contractors for a percentage of commissions.

Since the setup of CIDB decades ago, what had been seen of CIDB in the eyes of contractors and property developers is that they exist to collect 0.25% of the project contract sum from the contractors for each and every construction project exceeding $500,000. Thereafter, nothing beneficial had been done to assist the contractors other than to ensure that the contractors register themselves with them, buy the green cards issued by CIDB, and apart of this, is the great Indian mission of projects.

Each year, more than RM20 billion worth of government project had been executed and awarded and out of which, 0.25% will be worth RM50 million. Should we include private projects, the collections by CIDB would be worth around RM100 million. After collecting these contributions from the contractors, what had the contractors benefitted? Absolutely nothing; asked any contractors!!!

As the industry regulators and promoters, CIDB should had never played a beneficial role to contribute positively the development of the construction industry standards, in particular, the standards of construction methodology and quality of the works. Somehow, it's role is somewhat like a tax and debt collector, licence operator, and now, the new role is investigator and policemen of the contractors.

Is it the way that Malaysian government set up regulatory institutions?

Take an anology: If parents duty to their children is to police them of their activities and punish them if they are naughty; cane them when they don't study or fail in their exam; scold them if they don't behave; and slap them if they are delinquent; would you think the children will become a better person when they grow up? Would you think the children will learn to behave better or improve themselves from such enforcement?

Governmental institutions such as CIDB, DOSH, City Hall, etc, should be playing active and proactive role in development and progression. It is not about enforcement and policing that can contribute to national development and improvement. It is being involved with the industry, understanding their weakness and needs, promoting quality, safety, and competence that we can see improvements and maturity.

The Human Resources Ministry wants answers from the Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB) on the 700 cases of negligence at project sites reported since 2003. Datuk Seri Dr Fong Chan Onn said his ministry would meet with the board this week to ascertain what was wrong in the industry. “We want to know the outcome of their investigations as CIDB has the power to issue stop-work orders and take action against errant contractors. We are serious as we do not want a repeat of the tragedy which happened in Sri Hartamas (Kuala Lumpur) last week,” he said. Dr Fong statement was in response to media reports about the 700 cases, which included 150 high-profile incidents.

I am not sure if Dr Fong understands the role and responsibility of CIDB and also whether CIDB understand their purpose of existence.

Secondly, I am puzzled at the committee that is set up to investigate the incidence at Plaza Damas. It seemed to consist of structural engineering design engineers. But the key problem that is involved in the incident involves the operation management of the construction activities, the mechanical engineering operation of hoisting steel moulds, clamping and locking of the craning and hoisting system, how the workers and supervisors control and monitor the craning, hoisting, fixing, removing and stacking the steel moulds. This concerns, project management, construction site operation management, tower-cranage management, safety and risk operation management of work activities and tasks. Nothing, absolutely nothing, is involved with structural engineering design.

It puzzles me - are they going to investigate the steel mould design? Are they looking into the reinforced concrete design? Are they going to check and analyse the scaffolding design and installation? What for? What the F**k for?

Primarily as I see it, the investigation should be centered on how the steel moulding operations are carried out from hoisting, installation, removal and stacking; how the safety of the work's operation were planned, monitored and controlled; and whether there any risk management - identification, quantification, response planning, risk monitoring, risk control, and workaround management? The analysis should include the methods of operation and resource competence such as the competence and control of tower-crane operation, how contractor execute and supervise their work and task operations, how they manage safety and risk, and whether the consulting engineers and architects of the project had played their professional roles of project management.

The committee should therefore include those who understand tower-crane operation, steel formwork system operation management (not design), construction management safety and health experts, mechanical engineers to analyse the hoisting and installation process for the steel moulding formwork system, project management experts in high-rise building construction, and construction-risk system managers.

At such, if the investigation committee is crowded with structural design experts, and government servants, including CIDB staffs, the presumption is that they understand nothing of contractors' operation management and process. Even those purported associated consultants of CIDB are good talkers, and none have been experienced as contractor's operation managers or had been construction site managers who had been involved in high-rise building construction management process in the role of the contractor's operation.

Unless you are been involved with the contractors in construction process and management role, it is hard for government servants irrespective whether they are ex-JKR or ex-consulting engineers, to be able to have insights to the real emphirical problem that caused such incident.

Fantasy and fallacy always prevail... I hope Tan Sri Omar truly understand and discover the profound knowledge of the contractor's operation.