PH govt views graft seriously, GPS lawmakers cautioned

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By Geryl Ogilvy

KUCHING, Nov 7: State Pakatan Harapan chairman Chong Chieng Jen has warned Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) against treating allocation for the repairs of dilapidated schools as their personal “automated teller-machine” (ATM).

With Sarawak needing money to repair 1,020 dilapidated schools, including 415 deemed ‘critically dilapidated’, the Kota Sentosa assemblyman questioned why two primary school projects — SK Ulu Segan in Bintulu and SK Maludam, Betong — were projected to cost around RM40 million each.

Worst, he added, SK Ulu Segan has only 235 students. He asked whether it was justifiable to spend over RM40 million for a school that caters for some 200 students.

In July this year, state Education, Science and Technological Research Minister Datuk Seri Michael Manyin Jawong said the projected estimated cost was RM40.1 million for SK Ulu Segan and RM48.2 million for SK Maludam.

“Dilapidated-schools issue does not simply emerge in the past few months. It is a result of the negligence of the Barisan Nasional (BN) government over the past 50 years, and the current state governing coalition, GPS, was part of Barisan.

“We all want the best schools for our students, but do not treat these projects as your ATM machine for BN (or GPS) cronies, please. This will not be allowed by the new (Pakatan) government,” he told reporters on the sidelines of the State Legislative Assembly (DUN) sitting here today.

Chong reminded that in January 2016, former Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak allocated RM2 million each to repair and rebuild six rural schools using the industrialised building system (IBS).

When Manyin announced the need to repair 1,020 dilapidated schools in Sarawak in June last year, he also proposed the building of centralised schools, combining rural schools to save cost. The cost of repair for each school was estimated at RM1 million, he continued.

Chong also quoted Manyin as telling the media then that the state needed at least RM4 billion to repair all the schools, with an allocation of RM10 million each for the projected cost.

In response, Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg announced a RM1 billion allocation in October last year to repair dilapidated schools.

“However, this year, (assistant minister for education) Dr Annuar Rapaee claimed the amount would be enough for about 50 schools, which means the projected cost is now RM20 million per school. Within three months, the cost of repair suddenly doubled,” Chong pointed out.

“Why the projected budget to repair schools, from the initial allocation of RM2 million per school two years ago, went up to RM10 million and then RM20 million, and when a budget was announced recently for the two schools, it has reached RM40 million per school?” he asked.

The DAP lawmaker also wondered why the chief minister, in his State Budget 2019 speech on Monday (Nov 5), mentioned the same number of dilapidated schools.

“I’m wondering what happened to the earlier allocations? There needs to be a certain amount of accountability and integrity in the implementation of government projects,” said Chong. — DayakDaily