Axing MMC-Gamuda contract more trouble than it’s worth

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I am writing this from the perspective of a building consultant. I am curious about the recent move to banish MMC-Gamuda KVMRT from the execution of the MRT2 underground package.

1. What would the implications of terminating the contract 40% into project completion be for end users? Ultimately, the MRT lines serve to diffuse the severe Malaysian problem of lack of alternatives to travelling with personal vehicles. The MRT Line 2 in fact specifically serves the most congested road in the Kuala Lumpur city centre, Jalan Tun Razak. To halt the project this late in the day would surely mean the public will not be able to benefit from the full network of MRT as initially promised.

2. If I understand correctly, a private local engineering firm has been engaged to re-assess the project costs with respect to the current progress and upcoming works. What exactly is the outcome of the rationalisation? Often, when a professional body is commissioned to re-evaluate a work of such high stakes, its appointment would need to be matched with some level of credibility and qualification. That the government is mum on the organisation and its findings is disconcerting.

3. Apart from furnishing the cost-benefit analysis of its decision, the government should seek engineering experts to gain an independent opinion on the impact of deferring current works. The consequences of leaving underground constructions on hold for extended periods can generate significant risks and cost implications.

Unlike the familiar scenarios of abandoned building projects that can be left halfway and easily resumed at a later point in time, an underground construction would need to be stabilised, with some deep shafts possibly having to be backfilled again, to ensure ground movements are controlled.

The contractors would most likely have to expend more to secure current work sites, with continual monitoring of completed sections necessary to protect surrounding buildings and people.

All this for a possibly extended interim between re-tendering, final award, handing over and reinstatement of the works.

Technically speaking, the termination of the MRT underground contract sounds like a lot more work than any potential savings could possibly warrant. Considering it is no small thing to either contractors or taxpayers, should the MRT project end up a flop, the finance ministry should ensure that all angles, financial, contractual, construction and risk-wise, have been considered in deciding what’s best for the country.

Mr KI is an FMT reader.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.