Witnesses: Contractor of failed Perlis school project had strong connections

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Witnesses: Contractor of failed Perlis school project had strong connections
Witnesses: Contractor of failed Perlis school project had strong connections

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) was told that the contractor who was given two chances to complete the Malaysian Sports School in Perlis had strong "connections".

According to the Auditor-General's 2018 Series One report, phase one of the project was awarded to Pantas Technologies Sdn Bhd on Jan 11, 2013 and was supposed to be completed on Aug 1, 2014. An additional 109-day extension was granted but as of Nov 14, 2014, only 49 percent was completed.

Pantas Technologies' contract was subsequently terminated. However, they were re-awarded the project on Jan 11, 2018. As of Dec 31, 2018, only 4.5 percent was completed and their contract was terminated again.

The PAC during its hearing in 2019 had established that Pantas Technologies was chosen by the Finance Ministry among seven companies nominated by a company called Bumi Jelapang Corporation Sdn Bhd.

All ten companies recommended by the Education Ministry for the job were shot down by the Finance Ministry.

When Madinah Mohamad, in her capacity as the former Education Ministry secretary-general between 2013 to 2016, testified before the PAC on Nov 11, 2019, she explained that her ministry saw an urgency to complete the project.

She then confronted the Finance Ministry after the contractor failed to complete the project the first time, she was told that the contractor was not terminated the correct way.

"To me, this was a delay tactic. Then, I heard that this company is connected to somebody very high up. That is why they dare not push. They tried, but could not because the matter was decided by the highest level," said Madinah.

She said there was "no urgency" on the part of the Finance Ministry to complete the project and even suggested there was a "purposeful delay" on the part of the latter.

Madinah: I spoke to some (Finance Ministry) officers and they said they are having difficulties because the company is linked to the highest (office). So I didn't ask a lot.

Akmal Nasrullah Mohd Nasir (PKR-Johor Bahru): Where does the link point to? Is it political, non-political, or somewhere else?

Madinah: At the time I was told - and if lawyers are here they will say "Tan Sri (Madinah) is citing hearsay" - that the link was to the finance minister lah.

When Pantas Technologies was awarded the contract in 2014 and again in 2018, the finance minister was Najib Abdul Razak.

On an unrelated note, Najib appointed Madinah as the auditor-general in 2017.

Another witness, Education Ministry secretary-general Gazali Abas (appointed in 2018) told the PAC on Oct 18, 2019, that he had led a large delegation to visit the project site.

Gazali said the Education Ministry had protested against the Finance Ministry's decision to reappoint the same contractor to finish the job.

"There was no justification. They chose the same (contractor). It was an instruction. They never explained why. We asked and they never gave a reason," he said.

When quizzed by several PAC members, Gazali said there was no way to remedy the situation once the Finance Minister had made a decision under the Financial Procedure Act 1957.

"When it comes to procurement, he has the final say," said Gazali.

He said a ministry consultant was in charge of monitoring the contractor's progress and had tried to reprimand the contractor for non-delivery.

"However, the contractor thought they were, I don't know, kebal (invincible)," he said.

According to the Companies Commission records, Pantas Technologies was started by Che Samsuddin Haji Mat and Nor Azimah Shaari on Oct 5, 1990, with a paid-up capital of RM1.5 million.

As of the financial year ending June 31, 2018, the company reported a revenue of RM1.448 million and a profit after tax of RM4,855.

The project in question is a sports school in Bukit Chabang, Titi Tinggi in Perlis. This school was to train athletes in track and field, badminton, archery, sepak takraw, hockey, and golf.

The tender notice to appoint another contractor to complete the project was issued late last year.