Pending rep urges State govt to pay claims due to professional consulting firms

Yong (left) highlighting the payment delays to professional consulting firms during a press conference at Sarawak DAP today (July 28, 2022).

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By Ashley Sim

KUCHING, July 28: Pending assemblywoman Violet Yong is urging the Sarawak government to promptly pay the professional fees and charges for all government development projects involving consulting services.

According to Yong, she had been informed that the implementing State authorities or agencies have been extremely slow in making payments to professional consulting firms that were claimed in accordance with the stages of fee payment agreed upon in the consulting agreement signed between the parties.

She stated that payment delays are a major concern that the State government should investigate and address immediately.

“The majority of engineering consulting firms in Sarawak, in particular, are experiencing payment delays for State government or government-linked company (GLC) projects in which they are involved.

“The delay could drag on to more than six months to a year from the date the consulting firms submitted payment claims to the State authorities or GLC,” she said today at a press conference held at the Sarawak Democratic Action Party (DAP) headquarters (HQ) here.

Furthermore, Yong asserted that the severity of the payment delay issue is primarily due to bureaucratic red tape, which slows the payment approval process, and another reason is that the authorities are taking their sweet time to finalise the consulting agreements.

She noted that the implementing agencies would not permit the consulting firms to submit a claim for payments if there were no executed and stamped consulting agreements.

Moreover, the Pending assemblywoman said that there is no clause in the consulting agreements specifying the time frame for the implementing agencies to make payment after invoices for payments were submitted.

“In my view, the State government is not acting professionally and fairly towards the consulting firms.

“On the one hand, State implementing agencies such as the Sarawak Public Works Department (JKR Sarawak), Land Custody and Development Authority (LCDA), Sarawak Rural Water Supply Department (JBALB), etc., rely heavily on the appointed architects, engineers, and quantity surveyors for their professional advice, services, etc., for the implementation of government projects; on the other hand, payment for completed work was not made promptly,” she explained.

Yong said as a result of the State government’s delayed payments, many professional consulting firms are experiencing severe cash flow problems, which has impacted overall performance.

She also claimed that in most cases, consulting firms must personally chase for payments for work done by calling or hopping from one department to the next.

“For example, after the consulting firms submit a claim for payment under JKR Sarawak, JKR Sarawak will inform them that the fund is not yet with the department, and the consulting firms will then have to go to the relevant State ministries to chase for the money to be disbursed to JKR Sarawak.

“In most cases, however, the relevant ministries will notify the consulting firms that they are still awaiting funding from the State Economic Planning Unit (EPU), and the cycle of following up on the issue will continue,” she added.

Yong said there is clearly a lack of efficiency on the part of the Sarawak government in making timely payments to the professionally engaged.

“I am highlighting this payment delay issue so that the Sarawak government will take immediate action to improve the payment process system to all eligible players.

“It will be very embarrassing for the Sarawak government which yields billions in annual revenues to be seen as a not so good paymaster if this issue is not properly addressed,” she stressed. — DayakDaily