C4 wants audit, review of RM4.4 bil River of Life project

The River of Life project was launched in 2012 to clean up and beautify a 10km stretch of the Klang River in central Kuala Lumpur. (Facebook pic)

PETALING JAYA: The Center to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4) has called for a comprehensive audit of the River of Life (ROL) project, saying shortfalls in physical progress in its components is a cause for concern for taxpayers.

The ROL project was launched in 2012 to clean up and beautify a 10km stretch of the Klang River in central Kuala Lumpur.

The RM4.4 billion project includes river cleaning, beautification and development. A total of RM3.4 billion was allocated for clean-up operations and the remaining RM1 billion for landscaping.

In a statement, C4 executive director Cynthia Gabriel and senior researcher Lalitha Kunaratnam noted that the 2015 Auditor-General’s Report Series 1 showed there were cost escalations and delays in execution of the river cleaning component of the ROL.

“It has revealed, among others, lack of feasibility studies, procedural missteps, lack of oversight, poor contract management and enforcement,” they said.

“These flaws continued to prevail since no corrective or preventive action was taken to address them, as revealed in the subsequent audit in 2017,” they added.

Data from the 2017 A-G’s report on river water quality control projects cited in the statement showed that all six contracts in the ROL project had extensions of time (EOTs) granted, ranging from 92 days to 944 days.

An audit conducted on six of the 14 contracts awarded for the ROL, they added, revealed that the contracts increased by RM15 million to RM182 million as of October 2017.

Cynthia and Lalitha also cited a recent media report that said collapsible weirs (barriers) costing RM35 million at the Dayabumi Complex and in Brickfields had been out of commission for months.

Weirs are being installed at several places along a 2.2km river stretch from Dataran Merdeka to Dayabumi in the city centre as part of the ROL’s river beautification.

They further claimed a recent site visit to a river beautification site at Taman Titiwangsa, which is supposed to be completed this November, “suggests that the contractor had no intention to make it work within the timeframe and the project is far from completion”.

Cynthia and Lalitha asked what the Pakatan Harapan government and, in particular, the federal territories ministry and Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) had done to make remedial changes to the ROL project.

They also want to know if there was any cancellation or reverse tendering of incompetent contractors or project consultants and if any non-performing contractors or project consultants were punished or blacklisted by DBKL.

“Why was DBKL’s lackadaisical attitude towards the critical defects of costly non-functional collapsible weirs not detected or vetted by the federal territories minister? Is the current FT minister aware of this matter?”

To ensure that the government gets value for money from this project, they recommended that a revision of the initial plans in relation to its design, requirements, functionality and challenges be carried out.

They also asked that the government carry out a cost-benefit analysis to determine options which would provide the best approach to achieve benefits while maintaining costs to the minimum.

“In line with Pakatan’s pledge to tackle entrenched corruption, C4 urges immediate steps for access to information for public feedback.

“We further assert that Pakatan lay down important rules and standards on accountability mechanisms to assist in detecting fraud and assert our right to greater information over the dealings involving government and sales of government properties.”