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The buck stops with supervising officers in problem projects, says PAC

June 17, 2014 7:29 AM
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File photo shows Public Accounts Committee (PAC) chairman, Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed giving a media briefing at Parliament, Kuala Lumpur, April 28, 2014. — Yusof Mat IsaKUALA LUMPUR, June 17 — Officers overseeing public construction projects must take full responsibility for any and all shortcomings in the implementation, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) said today.

PAC chairman Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed said the practice of pushing the blame between ministries and the Public Works Department (PWD) is unacceptable, as it only makes the government look like it is shirking accountability.

“The PAC is sick of hearing ‘it’s the PWD’s fault’ in the A-G’s report,” he said at a news conference, referring to the Auditor-General’s annual report on the performance of government ministries and public agencies.

“When there are problems with a hospital or a school, it is the PWD’s fault... the ministries need to be responsible in coming up with the user requirements (of projects), especially in the construction process,” he added.

Nur Jazlan said the PWD is duty bound to build projects according to whatever requirements laid out by the relevant ministry or department, regardless of the usefulness of the project.

This lack of cooperation and consultation between the two parties always ends up with finger-pointing when the A-G highlights problems with ongoing or completed projects, the Pulai MP noted.

Citing the 9.9 per cent cost overruns in the construction of the Sentul district police headquarters as an example, the senior lawmaker said the concept of the project was far removed from what the police actually needed.

“The concept was for the building to be ‘mesra rakyat’ (people-friendly) so there was no fence. But once the project was completed, the police wanted to have a fence so this added to the cost.

“We cannot carry on going like this... we are not building a nuclear submarine. These are hospitals, schools,” he said.

To promote greater transparency and accountability, all ministries will be required to produce their own accrual accounts starting next year, to make sure every single sen spent is accounted for by senior officials.

He said by January 1 next year, every federal ministry will be required to come up with their own financial statements which must be signed off by the secretary-general, while the same practice will be made mandatory in all states starting January 1, 2016.

“By doing this, there is no way the KSUs can say ‘I didn’t know about this’, when issues are highlighted. We hope all the KSUs will take serious note of this,” he said citing the Malay acronym for secretary-general.

Nur Jazlan said the East Coast Highway is expected to be completed by September this year at a cost of RM2.75 billion, about RM200 million below the RM2.95 billion budget set aside for the 184-kilometre tolled road.

He said PAC was satisfied that all affairs are in order in the construction of the road, despite it shooting far beyond it’s March 2009 completion deadline.

The PAC chief explained that the construction cost - initially set at RM2.09 billion - shot up in 2008 due to a sharp rise in the cost of construction materials, aside from higher land acquisition costs due to the larger land area needed to accommodate toll gates and wider road shoulders, after the government decided to change the status of the road from a federal road to a tolled road.

“Despite the cost increase, the project is expected to be completed below budget, so there are no cost overruns... the extra that has not been spent will be reallocated by MOF in the next budget,” he said, referring to the finance ministry.


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