Again and again, we hear of shoddy workmanship of public buildings using public funds. Are threats to blacklist errant contractors seriously carried out?
IT’S a fiasco. The seven-storey RM200mil Immigration Department is barely two years old but a pipe burst last week forced daily operations to be suspended.
Poor design, shoddy workmanship and bad supervision and maintenance have been cited as the causes. But what was more shocking to taxpayers was the statement by Putrajaya Public Works Department director Abdul Rahim Ahmad that “this was a problem waiting to happen”. In short, it was a problem that needed fixing and everyone was waiting for an incident to take place.
Abdul Rahim went on to say that he had seen similar shoddy workmanship at several other buildings in Putrajaya.
Strong words indeed. Malaysians would certainly like to know the names of the contractors who had carried out such lousy jobs. They have plenty of explaining to do and Public Accounts Committee chairman Datuk Shahrir Samad has correctly asked PWD officers to explain as public funds were used. But we all know that this is not the first time and we can be sure that it won’t be the last.
Just two years ago, Education Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein Onn revealed to the press that he was shocked to find six of the seven computer laboratories in schools in his constituency still unusable, two years after they were built.
Again, it was due to extensive shoddy workmanship of the buildings, which included instances whereby repairs were going on after more than six months.
In one case, the computer laboratory of the school was found to be useless after it was discovered that the contractor had failed to notice that it was built on top of a main water pipe, it was reported. This led to the floor of the building reportedly being soaked in water.
Some of us remember when then Education Minister Tan Sri Musa Mohamad revealed that about 1,200 computer laboratories nationwide were deemed unsafe due to shoddy workmanship by the private contractors involved in the project.
The question is: Why do these problems keep cropping up and who are these bad contractors? Were they engaged for these government projects because of their competency or because of their political links?
These are justifiable questions and certainly taxpayers do not want to see their money wasted.
We have grown familiar with warnings from politicians threatening to blacklist errant contractors but we wonder if they are really carried out or were these remarks made just to appease angry voters.
In 2004, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi directed the PWD to take over 16 schools and five community colleges nationwide, which had serious structural defects. Some did not even have amenities like access roads, it was reported.
Last year, it was reported that a RM48mil school in Sabah was under serious threat from landslides, endangering the building’s structure. In cases like this, we wonder who the consultant engineers were and whether the authorities had given approvals for these institutions to operate when there are structural faults. It’s not just lousy workmanship but equally bad inspection by the authorities concerned, who did not take into account the safety of the people.
Repair works do not come cheap these days. Last year, Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu queried why RM100,000 had to be spent on repair work and termite treatment in seven classrooms.
It’s a shame that we continuously read of such problems as they would only give the impression that we tolerate such abuses of public funds.