“Works Ministry consistently warned LBU over Pan Borneo Highway work package contractors”

See Chee How

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KUCHING, Jan 16: The Works Ministry has consistently issued warnings to Lebuhraya Borneo Utara (LBU) with regards to the work package contractors (WPC) fulfilling their contractual responsibility for the safety of the people.

The ministry has personally done spot-checks on several sites of the Pan Borneo Highway and has given stern warnings to LBU for errant contractors to repair bad road conditions, according to Special Officer to the Minister of Works, See Chee How.

“Currently, WPCs (“errant”, as alleged by Bintulu MP Tiong King Sing, but not to the ministry’s knowledge or belief) can only be terminated by LBU in accordance with the binding appointment contract between LBU and the WPCs.

“The ministry does not have this authority. The ministry is unaware if any errant contractors have collected payments without delivery of work, as payments to contractors are still managed by LBU at this point in time,” the Batu Lintang assemblyman revealed in a statement.

The Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) lawmaker reminded that the Pan Borneo Highway Sarawak is still under the purview of LBU, not the Works Ministry or minister Baru Bian, as alleged by Tiong. Road repair works are executed by the WPCs appointed for the respective sections and packages according to their terms of contract by LBU.

He added that the ministry, under the Pakatan Harapan-led federal government, had a issued termination notice to LBU for its services as Project Delivery Partner (PDP) on Sept 20, 2019, which will only take effect on Feb 20 this year.

Cost savings was made by the federal government with the termination, as LBU receives 5.5 per cent in commission to oversee project execution by the WPCs. In short, LBU was paid by the federal government to oversee the Pan Borneo Highway until Feb 20, he continued.

“Road users’ safety is of the highest priority to the Ministry of Works whereby various mechanisms and policies have been put in place to enable roads which are under construction stages to remain open to ‘live’ traffic, particularly for travellers during festive seasons.

“Since 2016, the Ministry of Works has implemented the Construction Industry Transformation Programme (CITP) which emphasizes quality, safety and professionalism in construction works,” See said.

He added that Sarawak Public Works Department (JKR) is also closely monitoring the situation on the ground, especially on the speed of completing repairs on pot-holes.

With the upcoming Chinese New Year festive season, the government’s priority was for relevant contractors to work fast to close as many temporary diversions as possible and open more stretches of the first carriageway to traffic.

This included ensuring speedy repairs to the damaged sections and pot-holes by having sufficient resources available during the peak traffic period, and paying extra attention to traffic management by ensuring ample road signages and that road furniture is in place.

“We are extremely disappointed with the malicious accusation by YB Tiong that impugns the reputation of the WPCs, when he stated that WPCs were paid despite not carrying out repair works.

“We demand that YB Tiong furnishes evidence to support his accusation or retracts his statement with an apology to the WPCs,” See asserted.

On Monday (Jan 13), Tiong, who is also Progressive Democratic Party (PDP) president expressed scepticism over whether Baru can ensure that the Pan Borneo Highway could be completed as scheduled by next year.

He also questioned Lanang MP Alica Lau’s appointment as chairman of the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) chairperson, who must also be made responsible for the highway’s safety aspects.

Tiong described the Pakatan Harapan government as “criminally slow” in ensuring construction quality is up to specifications and safety measures are put in place.

He asserted all these can be attributed to human factors, claiming engineering staff under Baru’s ministry has repeatedly failed to provide effective oversight on the project and its contractors. — DayakDaily