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Wind of Change

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Sunday, March 29, 2009

WORLD MOST EXPENSIVE GRAVEL HIGHWAY

RM563mil spent on 'gravel road' in Sabah
Abdul Aziz Bari | Mar 9, 09 10:55am
Those in Sabah’s construction circles have reacted with surprise to Works Minister Mohd Zin Mohamed’s statement that a RM536 million 'highway' to Tawau had all along been envisaged as a gravel road.

However, his pledge at the same time that the highway will now be sealed has provided some relief to long-suffering road users and struck a hopeful chord among construction companies in the state.

Their constant refrain that the big jobs go to peninsula-based companies with the right political connections have so far fallen on deaf ears.

The 145km Jalan Sapulut-Kalabakan was completed on May 15 last year by Gamuda Bhd as a sub-contractor. The Perak sultan’s daughter has a stake in the company.

The project then became the subject of two reports lodged last year with the Anti-Corruption Agency, since replaced by the Malaysian Anti- Corruption Commission.

Mohd Zin said in a statement yesterday that heavy logging activities had been going on along the entire length of the highway, “hence the decision to settle for a gravel road (at the time)”.

“It was a joint decision by the Ministry of Works, the Economic Planning Unit and the Sabah Public Works Department,” he said.

“If the asphaltic coating work on the road had continued (under the original contract), the heavy logging activities would have definitely damaged the new road and increased the reconstruction and repair works by another RM100 million.”

‘Expensive gravel road’

He also said the highway would “definitely be sealed” in the near future once the EPU in the Prime Minister’s Department gives the go-ahead.

“If approved, this work will go through the process of open tender as a new contract and not be treated as additional work or variation order under the previous contract. The work needed careful estimates by the EPU before any decision is made.”

The minister did not give any figures. Neither did he say whether the original contractor and its sub-contractor, a sister company, would be allowed to tender for the sealing contract. Both are based in the peninsular.

It is learnt from local companies eyeing the contract that it would take at least RM150 million to apply asphaltic coating/black top road surface to the highway, which is part of the Pan-Borneo Highway that is due to be completed under the 9th Malaysia Plan (2006-2010).

Kota Kinabalu MP Dr Hiew King Cheu, who had previously raised the issue in Parliament, said RM563 million is “just too much money to build a gravel road”.

“It works out to RM3.88 million per kilometre. With that kind of money, it should be able to sustain heavy traffic load including logging trucks, provided not overloaded, unless the job was not done according to specification,” he added.

Source : Sapp Blog