There is a saying that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. The PN component parties are very old dogs and everyone knows their tricks.
Specifically, UMNO politicians, their allies and catspaws in places like Sarawak have for decades inflated contracts in order to scoop fat ‘consultancy’ and ‘turnkey’ fees or to simply take the money for themselves – the project, be it a road or hospital, more often than not being abandoned in the process.
The same people are back in office and looking for their rewards for supporting PN’s royally appointed prime minister, who embarked on his role by announcing to his followers that it would be easy to buy over enough MPs in Parliament once he controlled the public coffers.
In fact, not so many as he thought have proven biddable so far, leaving his parliamentary majority hanging by a thread (bribes being offered to opposition MPs are now in the millions SR is reliably informed). As a result the bought MPs have huge leverage over the coup administration and are pressing all the harder for more rewards….
Coincidentally, contract inflation appears to be spiralling right back out of control reflecting the worst excesses that an angry electorate rejected back at GE14. A vast ‘Covid’ budget was forced through thanks largely to the exhortations of the Agong, the bulk of which remains unexplained and unallocated to the expressed purpose of public health.
Meanwhile, questions have already been raised as sums fail to add up on supposed vaccine purchases according to conflicting announcements by ministers themselves.
Now, PKR Sarawak is raising similar concerns about two hospital projects that have been announced in the state with an eye to the upcoming state election. Lawas has lacked proper medical facilities for decades as hospital project after vote-winning hospital project has been announced to entice local people only to collapse with elections over – countless millions ‘wasted’ in the process.
This time yet another hospital project has been announced for Lawas and also an extension for Miri hospital. The 328 bed Miri extension has been allocated a budget of RM340 million and the revived Lawas hospital is to have 76 beds for a record budget of RM175 million according to the latest August government press release, although the government itself admits the Lawas project is only 0.13% complete!
With PH out of office since the start of the year, public tendering processes on the Miri project appears to have been abandoned in favour of a behind closed doors ‘negotiated’ contract long-favoured by the old dogs now back in office.
Hence the announcement of the stunning RM340 million provision in October for the seven story extension? PKR’s veteran Miri representative Dr Michael Teo has certainly called out the cost in recent weeks. He has pointed out that in Malaysia far fancier private hospitals are being put up across the country for a relative fraction of the price – it should be the other way around of course with the government procuring the cheaper deals.
“There are two new private hospitals in Miri for which the cost per bed was RM6-700 thousand, yet this public hospital is costing [at RM340m for 328 beds] over one million ringgit a bed, nearly double. Why? Worse with the Lawas project [at RM175m for 76 beds] which comes out at RM2.3 million a bed!”
When this is public money that has been allocated in the name of saving lives it is it not troubling that it is costing an allegedly not for profit government project up to three times as much to provide a hospital bed as it does for a private enterprise?
Of course, Malaysians are used to this sort of ‘leakage’. How else are elected officials to keep their status in society by making themselves richer than everybody else? It is the mentality that voters rightly rejected in GE14 and ought to with even greater emphasis at the Sarawak state election.