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KSSB boss defends sand-mining ops

 | February 20, 2012

The chief of the Selangor-owned sand-mining company says systems are in place to stamp out corruption and favouritism.

PETALING JAYA: The chief of the company that is involved in the sand-mining controversy is now trying to absolve himself by saying that he cannot comment on previous allegations.

Kumpulan Semesta Sdn Bhd (KSSB) chief executive officer Wan Ab Halim even said that the company is still a new venture.

The Selangor state-owned company was established in 2008. In an interview with FMT, Wan Halim said KSSB is still a new venture and is continuously improving its operations.

Wan Halim, who became the CEO in July last year, said that he was not in the position to comment on previous allegations.

He, however, explained that the company was streamlining its operations to tackle any wrongdoings.

“We are a new company. We already have personnel in place but it is a question of defining their roles and how effectively they can carry out their duties.”

The sand-mining controversy first surfaced when Kapar MP S Manikavasagam lodged a police report in mid-2010 for alleged misappropriation of funds and corruption.

Subsequently, the Selangor State Legislative Assembly’s Select Committee on Competency, Accountability and Transparency (Selcat) conducted a public enquiry to look into the matter.

KSSB was cleared of any wrongdoing. However, almost two years later, the written report on the inquiry is yet to be made public.

One of the allegations made by Manikavasagam was that some companies were allowed to manipulate the system by extracting more sand from the mines without paying for it.

“For instance, ever since 2008 the mines already had a security system in place. We have site supervisors, security personnel, and so on. They have been there all this while. But it is a question of clearly defining the roles that they play,” he said.

Fine-tuning

Wan Halim said fine-tuning was the crux of the KSSB operations today.

He said that there are three different types of mines which KSSB oversees – mines owned by government-linked companies (GLCs), mines on private lands and sand mining in rivers.

KSSB only commissions contractors for the seven mines on GLC land and the 29 river mines. It also overlooks the tender process of these 36 operators. Private land mines contract their own mine operators.

Previously, there were many allegations that companies linked to state executive councillors and state politicians were handed preferential treatment over mining contracts.

Addressing this allegation, Wan Halim said that selection of contractors to operate these mines is done on an open tender process.

“We have a panel interview to award contracts and I am the chairman of the panel. During the interview, we don’t ask which party you belong to or who you are aligned to.

“We go based on merit. We have a system and the management follows that system. If the person we selected has political alignment, it is merely a coincidence,” he said.

He said that the panel will present the list of the best offers to the board of directors and it is the latter who will make the final decision.

He added that in the past only one company was given a discount price. It was a company contracted to extract sand. The discount was given to the company, according to Wan Halim for its effectiveness.

Volume discount

But the “volume discount” system, where a discount is based on the volume extracted, has since been abolished.

“The decision to give the company a volume discount was taken by the board. The company was given the discount as it was the only company capable of extracting more than 10, 000 tonnes of sand a month.

“The volume discount started in 2009 but we stopped it in mid-2010. Now all operators pay the same price,” Wan Halim said.

The only price rebate currently is the 50 sen discount for every tonne purchased by the 100-odd registered buyers with KSSB.

There are no other kinds of price rebates, he said.


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