Sabah Water Department under fire over written exam for pipefitters

SAPP says at least 620 pipefitters are out of work as only 104 have been able to renew their licences. (Bernama pic)

KOTA KINABALU: Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) has questioned a new directive for pipefitters in the state to sit for a written exam in order to renew their licences.

PBS vice-president Johnny Mositun said for years, pipefitters, who are responsible for installing, maintaining and repairing piping systems, had been renewing their licences without any problem.

“They never failed to complete their projects, and many of them have years of experience in the field. Why this new directive suddenly?” he said.

According to Sabah Water Department director Amarjit Singh, only 104 out of 2,123 registered pipefitters in the state have been able to renew their licences so far.

Only 724 applied to be licensed, while 174 qualified applicants sat for the exam with 104 obtaining a pass.

Mositun said the contractors had already attended the necessary courses when applying for their licences from the Construction Industry Development Board.

The former deputy state assembly speaker also said the pipefitters were demanding that their licences be unconditionally renewed.

Sabah Progressive Party president Yong Teck Lee meanwhile said the “unnecessary bureaucracy” had reduced the number of licensed pipefitters in the state to only 104 from over 2,000 previously.

He added that even they would see their licences expire after May.

“The government should exercise prudence and foresight when coming up with new rules and regulations,” he said.

“As if the fiasco over the appointments of native chiefs and village heads was not bad enough, now the Water Department has invented written tests for water pipefitters and pipelayers.”

Given that only 104 pipefitters had been able to renew their licences, he said, at least 620 were now out of work.

“As these are breadwinners who have families to look after, the government must promptly overcome the non-issuance of licences to these working men.”

Yong also questioned the need to pass an exam, saying failure did not necessarily mean that pipefitters are not capable.

“Some competent motorists might not pass the highway code if they have to sit for driving tests again,” he said. “Some qualified lawyers might not pass today’s law school exams.

“To suddenly deny a licence to these men who have been in the industry for more than 10 years is a gross injustice inflicted on them by their own government.”

Yong warned that Sabah was already short of pipefitters and pipelayers, which could lead to delays in the construction sector.

“All this bureaucratic mess will further dampen economic activities in Sabah. It is long overdue that the government gets its act together and stop its habit of governance by ‘trial and error’.

“Government officials should come down from their ivory tower and do things that make life easier for the people,” he said.