By Peter Sibon
KUCHING, Nov 23: Taking over Jepak Holdings, a scandal-ridden business entity, from its previous owners was a gamble Qeos’ chief executive officer Dr Gabriel Walter has to consider before finally accepting the challenge to complete the takeover deal in January 2019.
With Qeos’ excellent position prior to the takeover, he pointed out it was in jeopardy as they were on the verge of making their initial public offering (IPO) in Singapore Stock Exchange.
With the takeover, Qeos Led, which is one of the subsidiaries of Qeos Group of Companies, also inherited Jepak Holdings’ assets, liabilities and debt totalling RM84 million.
“It was a big risk to take over Jepak Holdings. But I decided to take over (Jepak Holdings) as I’m passionate about helping rural schools which in turn will help sustain the rural community,” Gabriel, 44, who hails from Bario told DayakDaily recently.
Having spent 17 years in the United States for studies, where he obtained his PhD in electrical engineering and later as a research scientist, his passion is about technology, which he was optimistic that it would be able to provide better power supplies to the rural schools in Sarawak through the solar hybrid system, whereby its lithium batteries have a lifespan of 20 years with warranty of 10 years.
He noted that rural schools have become dilapidated over the years including the poor condition of the teachers’ quarters which he described was like squatters’ colony.
“They are not happy with the condition. (Furthermore,) the electricity is also not reliable. So, that’s why we want to help the schools with stable electricity and communication. We then installed solar (hybrid system) on the roof of the schools,” he said.
With the availability of a huge budget, he pointed out that the company tried to ‘kill two birds with one stone’ and as such decided to also utilise the fund to repair and rebuild schools, besides the solar system.
Gabriel revealed that when he took over Jepak Holdings, the government was already owing the company RM200 million on works completed and as of Oct 2, 2019 when its contract was terminated by the Ministry of Education (MoE), the government was owing the company about RM630 million.
“We plan to digitalise the hybrid system for all the 233 rural schools in Sarawak but which will still require diesel for backup.
“With digitalisation, we will be able to monitor the system, performance as well as the fuel and M-Oil, because we cannot trust the people who maintained them,” he said.
In fact, he added that there were also plans to change all the generator sets for free which would cost less that RM20 million because maintenance was more expensive than purchasing new ones.
However, as Jepak Holdings has been given the sole contract to supply diesel to 333 rural schools for RM22 million per month, it was also a breeding ground for many unscrupulous individuals to make quick bucks out of it. The contract also includes the maintenance of the generator sets in all schools involved.
“We detected cases in which they would mix diesel with water. This is insane. But the diesel business is lucrative as it is worth RM300 per year.
“The actual cost is only about RM120 million but a large sum was for other purposes. That’s why ‘they’ want to kill this project and to reset it. The question is why do you need RM22 million per month, which figures are provided by the government,” he alleged.
As for the solar system, he said it will cost the government less than RM50 million per year for maintenance.
“The solar system has a life span of 20 years with warranty of 10 years for the lithium batteries. The government can save about RM250 million per year. In 20 years, you saved up to RM5 billion,” he added, pointing out that all schools in Peninsular Malaysia and Sabah were already using solar hybrid system.
Gabriel asserted that the ‘new’ Jepak Holdings that he is leading is not going for the diesel business because it is a technology company that is going for listing.
“We don’t need that kind of money. If I make RM100 million, it’s worth RM1.5 billion in the market if we get the IPO. We just want to get things right for the schools to help and contribute to sustaining villages. So that we all grow together.
“Our intention is to sell technology. This technology will reduce the cost of producing electricity, which is good for rural and remote villages. Our technology is focus on developing rural areas,” he concluded.— DayakDaily