Where is the corruption in the tunnel project?

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ADUN SPEAKS | There have been serious allegations by some quarters that the Penang undersea tunnel project was a "fishy" deal involving the pre-selling of land rights worth RM3 billion.

Due to this and other allegations in the past, MACC raided the offices of a number of government agencies involved in the project including the arrest of two with "Datuk" titles, one in Putrajaya and another in Penang.

How the figure of RM3 billion was manufactured, nobody knows. It seems to be an imaginary figure coming from those who have the habit of maligning the Penang state government for reasons best known to them.

Like the proverbial Don Quixote, MACC is more willing to imagine fighting fictitious enemies than those who have committed colossal crimes. While MACC has allowed those involved in massive corruption to roam the corridors of power, it is, however, prepared to investigate and harass even if there are murmurs about corruption in opposition-held Penang or Selangor.

This seems to be the position of MACC in the recent past. They have come to believe and act as if wrongdoers must be those in the opposition, as those in the government can do no wrong. Such a wild and unrealistic imagination has cast aspersions on MACC as truly an agency that will fight the scourge of corruption immaterial regardless of who is involved.

It has been made clear by Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng (photo) that the Penang government has not paid a single cent for the tunnel project, which is expected to be completed a few years later.

To date, Consortium Zenith Construction Sdn Bhd, the principal contractor has been only paid RM208 million for the completion of the three highways after the completion of the environmental impact assessment (EIA).

The total project including the tunnel and three highways is worth around RM6.3 billion.

The payment to Zenith was made by way of a land swap totalling 3.7 acres at the value of RM1,300 per square foot. The project was awarded to Zenith in 2013 on the basis of an open tender, in a meeting chaired by the state secretary of Penang.

Given the refusal of the federal government to honour its constitutional duty to embark on transport infrastructure, the Penang state government without the required funds had to rely on land swaps for infrastructure network.

None of the Penang state executive councillors were involved in the meeting or the decision-making resulting the granting of the project to Zenith.

Regarding the claims by Zenith, HSS Integrated Sdn Bhd, a specialist-engineering consultant, was appointed to scrutinise the claims. Zenith claimed RM302 million but the HSS could only justify RM208 million.

The awarding of the tender to Zenith and the appointment of HSS Integrated were done in an open and transparent manner. There is nothing to say that the entire project was shrouded in mystery.

As far as the Penang government is concerned, there is no irregularity or corruption regarding the project to build the three highways or the tunnel project. Although the feasibility study for the tunnel project has nearly been completed, no money has been given to date.

I am not sure about the allegations of corruption that some quarters are talking about sparking MACC investigations. Where they obtained information that there was a pre-selling of land rights worth RM3 billion remains to be established.

The Penang government has nothing to hide. We will cooperate with MACC to conduct their investigations without any hindrance. But at the same time, we ask those in Putrajaya not to intimidate us just because the general election is around the corner.


P RAMASAMY is Penang Deputy Chief Minister II and Perai state assemblyperson.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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