Wednesday, May 20, 2015

KLIA2 ever-Ballooning Costs - Dato’ Seri Liow Tiong Lai's Crumbling Defence

Dato’ Seri Liow Tiong Lai is the most blinkered Transport Minister ever by claiming that there was never a cost overrun for the construction of the KLIA2 Airport.

Malaysians are left in a state of disbelief when the Transport Minister, Dato’ Seri Liow Tong Lai told the Parliament, in response to a question from my fellow DAP Member of Parliament for Raub, Datuk Mohd Ariff Sabri Abdul Aziz that:

Actually, the KLIA2 project has never experienced cost overruns. The cost of the project increased because of an additional scope due to the new design concept for klia2, or the specific needs of the stakeholders like airlines and the government.

The Minister’s reply yesterday runs contrary to all the facts staring at Malaysians in the face, and all the previous announcements by both the Ministry of Transport and the Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd (MAHB).

The initial budget for the airport when it was first announced by Dato’ Seri Ong Tee Keat, the then Transport Minister in July 2007 was only RM1.7 billion. The budget was subsequently increased to RM2.0 billion in March 2009, and then RM2.5 billion in October 2010.

MAHB then shocked Malaysians by disclosing that the cost of the new airport has ballooned to RM3.9 billion due to cost overruns in November 2011. Following that, in October 2012, we were told in Parliament by the then Deputy Transport Minister, Dato’ Abdul Rahim Bakri that the cost was increased to RM4 billion.

These findings were investigated at length and confirmed by the Public Accounts Committee which tabled its report to the Parliament last November. The report on the RM4 billion ringgit KLIA2 scandal had found many suspicious and controversial decisions by by MAHB. Not only the cost of the airport more than doubled the original budget of RM1.7 billion, it was delayed multiple times by more than 2 years.

The findings included the decisions to locate KLIA2 at KLIA West, a site which has been documented by engineers as costly and ill-suited for airport construction; and the choice of a satellite-type terminal instead of a finger pier terminal as proposed by the airport consultants as among key causes for the massive cost-overrun.

However, Dato’ Seri Liow Tiong Lai chose to pretend that none of the above findings existed and continued to deny the obvious, like a blinkered horse, claiming that any increase in cost was due to “additional scope”.

In fact, Dato’ Seri Liow should be held in contempt of the PAC findings because he has stubbornly refused to accept the parliamentary committee’s primary recommendation – that is for the Ministry to instruct the Auditor-General to carry out a thorough and complete audit of the KLIA2 project.

This is despite the fact that the Transport Minister himself expressed support for the above recommendation for in January this year. It appears that the “support” expressed is nothing more than another empty promise to deflect criticisms by the public and the media for transparency and accountability.

Clearly Dato’ Seri Liow is worse than his predecessor, former MCA President and Transport Minister, Dato’ Seri Ong Tee Keat who at least had the courage, after much criticism to call for an independent audit by PriceWaterhouse Coopers (PwC) on another RM12.5 billion Port Klang Free Zone scandal.

The current MCA President however, lacks any authority, courage and backbone to do the right thing and ensure that those accountable for the RM4 billion KLIA2 fiasco are punished to ensure that such transgressions are never again repeated in all government and government-related projects. Instead, Dato’ Seri Liow became the most hopeless Transport Minister ever by backing and defending the culprits who caused substantial losses to Malaysian taxpayers.

Tony Pua

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