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Awan Megah's Puspahanas two years overdue

Construction of the National Centre for Defence Studies - better known by its Malay acronym of Puspahanas - has been delayed for almost two years now, adding to the issues over the financial deal involving high-profile players.

azlanAccording to the Construction Industry Development Board website, work on Puspahanas was to have been started on Sept 25, 2008 and completed on Jan 24, 2011.

The Defence Ministry had commissioned the project and inked the agreement with developer Awan Megah (M) Sdn Bhd when the minister was Najib Abdul Razak, currently the prime minister.

Awan Megah is owned by Selangor Umno Wanita head Raja Ropiaah Raja Abdullah, who was recently hauled into the spotlight by carpet trader Deepak Jaikishin after their financial deal on the project turned sour.        
                      
He has also claimed to have paid an undisclosed sum for Najib’s intervention to allow him to come in as a party to the project.

Yesterday PKR director of strategy Rafizi Ramli took Malaysiakini to the construction site at PT111, Presint 1 Putrajaya, to check on the progress of work.

NONEThe site of almost 40 acres (16 ha) is behind a three-metre high wooden hoarding. The single entrance admits construction vehicles and transport for workers.

A signboard states the start date as Nov 25, 2008, but does not give the scheduled completion date.

Only two buildings were under construction - up to the second floor currently - within the fenced in site, but the walls are not up yet.

A worker, one of the handful at work at the site, said the earthworks and about 30 percent of construction have been completed to date.

The worker, employed by subcontractor Sri Bina Jaya Sdn Bhd - which is tasked with physical construction - said the company was only brought in from August 2011. He could not say when the work would be completed.

NONE"Two out of 12 major buildings, and both at 30 percent - I'd say that is about 10 percent of the project so far, five years since construction was supposed to start," noted Rafizi (right).

He based his estimate on the list of works that are to be done, as stated on the project signboard and from the full building specifications and plans that he has seen.

At the site, a worker politely barred entry, saying that comments or permission for photographs should be obtained from Awan Megah and the Defence Ministry.

Needle in haystack ...

The search for the site was not easy as it lies tucked in a far corner of Putrajaya, near the Sultan Alam Shah secondary school and a Perbadanan Putrajaya ‘Park and Ride’ facility.

NONEThe project signboard, standing on the roadside, is hidden by a tree and shrubs and is difficult to read from a moving vehicle.

Rafizi said his aide had only managed to locate the site after exploring the area a few times.

The Defence Ministry had previously declined comment on related issues. Malaysiakini is continuing its attempts to obtain comment from the companies involved.

The ministry’s payment arrangement for the project involves RM27 million in cash, alongside the allocation of 223 acres (90.24ha) of land in Bukit Raja, Klang, valued at RM72.5 million.

On its part, Awan Megah was required to put up a land bond. When it could not, it approached Deepak for help.

His company Astacanggih Sdn Bhd then issued the RM72.5 million land bond on behalf of Awan Megah.

Astacanggih was to provide a further RM23 million to Awan Megah - of which RM13 million was paid - in exchange for 200 acres (80.9ha) of the land in Bukit Raja. Awan Megah is to keep the remaining 23 acres (9.3ha).

Deepak said he did not get the land and took legal action, but the case was settled out of court after the hearings began.

Last week, Boustead Holdings Bhd announced in a filing to Bursa Malaysia that it proposes to acquire - through its wholly-owned subsidiary Bakti Wira Development Sdn Bhd - an 80 percent stake in Astacanggih at RM30 million, as well as Awan Megah’s 200 acres in Bukit Raja at RM130 million.

Boustead Holding is the investment vehicle of Lembaga Tabung Angkatan Tentera, a Defence Ministry agency which has since come under criticism over the proposed acquisitions.

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