On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Another hole in the pocket

Taxpayers have good reason to be upset because it has cost them RM90mil in 2005 when Parliament House was renovated. Apparently, waterproofing material was not installed then. 

Different figures have been reported on the actual amount spent – ranging from RM60mil to RM85mil and now RM90mil – but what is certain is that it was a lousy job. 

On April 28, 2005, Members of Parliament had to leave the Dewan Rakyat when water seeped through the ceiling, drenching two rows of benches, and forced proceedings to be adjourned. 

Television sets situated at specific points, including the media centre, went blank while Finance Ministry parliamentary secretary Datuk Seri Dr Hilmi Yahaya had to stop his speech because his microphone failed. 

At the Dewan Negara just a few steps away, it was reported that two posh leather chairs broke when the Senate was in session. 

Speaker Tan Sri Ramli Ngah Talib was then quoted as saying, in a rather dramatic manner, that “it was too dangerous to continue with the proceedings, the water wasn’t slowing down and the ceiling could have collapsed for all we know.” 

Opposition Leader Lim Kit Siang called it a “day of shame for Parliament.” 

Two days later, Ramli must have recovered from the mishap as he said that the roof leak should not be linked to the renovations, and that the matter was a “technical oversight and already rectified.” The renovations, he added, were generally good. 

Samy Vellu ordered the Public Works Department to investigate while the Public Accounts Committee also promised a probe, with PAC deputy chairman Dr Tan Seng Giaw saying that the whole building needed to be checked.  

It would appear that Samy Vellu and the PAC would probably have been told that all problems had been fixed, and all have been forgiven and forgotten until Wednesday’s uproar in Parliament over another ceiling leakage. 

Worse, the complaints over the water seepage at the media centre by some MPs degenerated into a new controversy when the MP for Kinabatangan Datuk Bung Mokhtar Radin and Jasin MP Datuk Mohd Said Yusof made their now infamous bocor remarks. 

Their sexist remarks, which led to their formal apology to women in Malaysia, almost led to Malaysians forgetting the issue at hand. 

Even Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz said the Parliament House was safe and that “it is 40 years old and nothing has happened to date.” 

But Samy Vellu is now telling us a different story. If the Works Minister is right, Malaysians can expect the Treasury to have a bocor in its pocket, with another expensive repair exercise coming up because of shoddy maintenance. 

Water leakage may be common in old and new buildings and those of us who have moved into new houses would know that we often have to call up the developer to carry out patching work during the one-year warranty period. 

But Samy Vellu, a trained architect, has declared that the leaky roof is a “severe problem” and that the whole structure must be removed. 

Five spots, he added, were found near the Dewan Rakyat and Dewan Negara galleries and “if immediate repairs are not made, the situation will worsen and the leak will spread to 10 or 15 spots.” 

The dignity of the august house and the safety of the Right Honourable Members are important but the interest of taxpayers are equally important. 

I believe Malaysians in general are not amused by such huge amounts of money being spent on repairs and maintenance. 

The culprits should be hauled up and sued for damages if we wish to send a strong message to those who get government construction jobs. 

The Parliament maintenance staff should also answer for the pile of rubbish, mainly construction waste, on the roof, which had clogged the drainage system. 

With due respect to Samy Vellu, who has vast experience in public works, we would appreciate it if he can provide us with details of his estimates, including the RM22mil for checking buildings in Putrajaya. 

The Prime Minister, I believe, would want to know the damage for the maintenance work and costs to be incurred when the Cabinet meets next week.