Monday, February 02, 2009

We Want Our Water Back Too!

Syabas hits the headlines in The Sun
(edited montage of 30th Jan edition)

Amidst all the political hoollaboo over the state of affairs in Perak, and some say the rest of the country, you would be pleased to know that the Pakatan Rakyat government continues to exert pressure on the federal government and other relevant parties to provide a better deal for the people.

You have read my multiple posts whether here, or in the media (the latest published yesterday in The Star) with regards to efforts DAP is making to press the Government to ensure a more equitable toll rate for our highways, or if not possible, then buy them back as provided for in the concession agreements.

At the same time, I also sit in the Selangor Water Review Committee, which is appointed by the Menteri Besar in September last year.  The committee also include Charles Santiago (DAP - Klang), Dr Dzulkifli (PAS - Kuala Selangor), William Leong (PKR - Selayang) and several other activists, have been very actively looking into how restructuring the water assets and distribution ownership can be done to remove similarly, extraordinary profits made by private concessionaires at the expense of the Selangor rakyat. 

While I had objected to the Selangor Government's plan for free water earlier, I'm in full support for its plans to take over the water distribution business from its current concessionaire, Syabas, which is 70% owned by Puncak Niaga Berhad.

At the end of the day, this exercise if successful, would mean lower cost of water for all Selangor (and Kuala Lumpur too!). If you have not already known, the Syabas concession agreement gives Syabas the right to increase the water rates by as high as 37% for 2009 and delays in doing so will only result in compensation being paid by the state or federal government.

After studying the Syabas contract and receiving the audit report from Jabat Audit Negara, the state government has written officially to the federal government to request for its agreement to terminate the Syabas concession agreement as there were clear breaches to the agreement. (Under the agreement, the state government can only terminate the agreement with the consent of the federal government.)

As reported in the Sun last Friday:
Sources said the audit showed that more than 72% of contracts worth a total of RM600 million were awarded to selected companies via direct negotiations and only 25% via competitive open tender, which clearly violates the agreement.

In addition, the audit also found more than RM325 million in discrepancy between the summary of contracts awarded in 2005, 2006 and 2007 and Syabas’s review document (referring to general accounts).
Of course, the extraordinary profits do not just get reflected in the profit and loss statements but also by the way Syabas spends its money.
Aside from the breach of contract issue, questions are also being raised over the RM51.2 million spent to renovate the Syabas office when the Selangor Water Regulatory Department (JKAS) only approved RM23.2 million for this in 2005. The audit review found that Syabas had failed to comply with the requirement as approved by JKAS.
I was at the presentation by the Jabatan Audit, and there were certainly many more points of contention and extravagance on the part of the Syabas management.

Hence, the biggest question now is whether, inspite of the various material breaches in the concession agreement will the Barisan Nasional federal government stand on the side of the concessionaire, or will it stand with the people and act in the latter's interest?

It has been more than a month since the letter was sent to the Minister of Water, Energy and Telecommunications, and we have not heard a single response from the Minister despite our many meetings with its officials since. You can be assured that the Selangor state government will do its utmost, despite having to do many things with our hands tied behind our back, protect the interests of the people.

Hence, not only do we want our highways back, we want our water back too!
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