Chong alleges cost to rebuild schools bloated on purpose, Dr Annuar denies

By Nigel Edgar

KUCHING, Nov 8: Kota Sentosa assemblyman Chong Chieng Jen alleges today that the RM40 million to rebuild SK Ulu Segan in Bintulu and RM48.2 million for SK Meludam in Betong had been inflated to fill up some pockets.

The RM88.2 million total allocation to rebuild the two schools was announced in the State Budget 2019 that was tabled on Monday (Nov 5), to help the Ministry of Education rebuild the two rural primary schools.

After a State Budget 2019 debate this morning, Chong told a press conference that the cost was above the norm, pointing out that even a school with 1,000 students would not cost that much.

“It’s double or triple or even quadrupled the amount (cost). I call upon Nangka assemblyman (Dr Annuar Rapaee), as the assistant minister in charge of education, and also Dato Sri Michael Manyin, as the minister, to disclose fully the specifications for the two schools, how many classrooms, how many labs, equipment, etc, bearing in mind one of the schools (SK Ulu Segan) has only 235 students,” said Chong.

He urged Dr Annuar and Manyin to disclose also how the contract would be tendered out.

“I reiterate my call: don’t treat development projects as the ATM (automated teller machine) for their cronies,” Chong cautioned.

Replying to Chong later, Dr Annuar said Chong’s remarks were unfair because there were several factors that could affect the cost.

In fact, Dr Annuar added, Chong could always inquire details of the proposed projects to rebuild the two schools from Minister of Works Baru Bian and Minister of Education Dr Maszlee Malik as the implementation of the projects would be done by the federal government.

Dr Annuar Rapaee

“He should appreciate that the state government is helping the federal government to rebuild the schools.

“He (Chong) is creating doubt among the people. If he wants to know who the contractors are or the exact cost, ask Baru Bian or Dr Maszlee. We, the state government, only supplement and complement. We can only decide and help them (federal) with school priority, teachers development, that’s all. Policywise, we state (govt) cannot touch.

“Finance is also all under federal, except these two schools,” said Dr Annuar.

He explained that the various factors to take into account when rebuilding SK Ulu Segan and SK Meludam later would be soil works and location. For instance, SK Ulu Segan would need to be relocated from its current location because it’s in a low-lying area and always prone to floods.

“Besides soil works, we also take into account the future development. It is not like since the school has 250 students so we should just build for 250 students. We have to consider the increasing population of the villages around the school. Also, these schools are boarding schools,” said Dr Annuar.

He advised Chong to not overreact and purposely politicise education matters. Instead, Chong should sit down and inquire properly through the right channels, who are his colleagues — Minister of Works Baru, who would be in charge of project implementations, and Minister of Education Dr Maszlee, who is in charge of education policies. — DayakDaily