Computer-lab fiasco - Why PWD steps in only now?

It is most disheartening to read about the computer-lab fiasco in which the roofs of many laboratories have been declared unsafe and one had already collapsed. When Malaysia has boasted its ability to build the tallest building and the most modern airport in the world, the news of the computer-lab fiasco must have come as a shock to many.

It was reported that the project, consisting of more than 400 laboratories located in the east coast, was awarded to one Project Management Consultant (PMC) to do all the work from design to construction. The appointment of PMC was through the Ministry of Finance.

The PMC then awarded the construction of the labs to one main contractor who had apparently sublet to many others to do the job. It was also reported that the completion of the project had been delayed for more than two years.

The government's current practice in awarding contracts of this nature must have been changed during the last decade. In the good old days, construction of all buildings from the various ministries was undertaken by the Federal Public Works Department (PWD). The PWD then was staffed with well-qualified professionals -- engineers, architects and quantity surveyors. However, if PWD could not cope, a consulting architectural and/or a engineering firm would be appointed, by a committee set up by the government, to undertake the works from design to construction supervision under the direction of PWD.

The selection of a consultant was based on its experience, capability and resources. After appointment, the consultant would carry out all designs and prepare tender documents in accordance with the requirements of PWD. The latter would then call tenders for the works and award the tender through a tender board. The appointed consultant, on behalf of PWD would supervise the construction, prepare progress payments and perform other necessary duties until the final completion of the works.

The above procedure, practised for over half a century, had been working well all along. One wonders why such a well-tested procedure had to give way to one, which can easily lead to corruption and other malpractices.

July, 03 2008