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Dr Jeffrey questions if State A-G was consulted before water concessions termination

18th January, 2019

KOTA KINABALU: Did the Sabah government and the director of the state water department properly consult the State Attorney-General before terminating the water concessions?

Posing the terse question, Parti Solidariti Tanah Airku (STAR) president Datuk Dr Jeffrey Kitingan said many questions and concerns are being raised over the termination of the water supply maintenance contracts covering the 58 water treatment plants in Sabah.

He hoped such a drastic and abrupt action by the State government would not result in the dire consequence of widespread water supply disruptions in the state.

“Hopefully, it will not herald the beginning of more problems,” said the Assemblyman for Tambunan, in response to immediate water supply disruptions in Kudat and Sandakan, following termination of the water concession contractors with effect from 15th January.

Dr Jeffrey said the notice published by two of the affected water concessionaires disputing their termination with one month’s notice and their hostile responses raise issues of legality of the alleged termination.

“Why was the termination carried out considering that the concessionaires alleged that no meeting was held with them before the termination including allegations that the Director refused to meet the concessionaires?

“Was the interests and welfare of the general public prioritized and taken into consideration before the termination and that uninterrupted water supply was not jeopardized or the water quality compromised?” he questioned.

He also demanded to know if the said terminations were a ‘witch-hunt’ because the concession agreements were signed by the previous BN administration?

He further inquired whether there will be any savings for the Sabah government arising from the termination of the concessionaires and will the Sabah government be sued and be liable for compensation for the termination?

“The almost immediate water disruptions including notice posted by the Water Works Department and the handling of the takeover of the operations and staff from the concessionaires raise further concerns,” he said.

He continued that such concerns become more acute with the recent outbreak of cholera in some parts of the State, especially in the capital city, Kota Kinabalu, and with the Chinese New Year festivities just around the corner in early February.

“Any major disruption and contributing to another cholera outbreak will not only put the daily lives of Sabahans at risk, but also that of foreign tourists that are expected over the holiday period during the Chinese New Year,” he added.

Dr Jeffrey further asked if the welfare and interests of the people been taken into consideration in the termination?

“With the abrupt termination, have all actions and contingencies been taken to ensure that there are sufficient chemicals, reagents, spare parts and other essential items so that there are no disruptions in the water supply or the water quality compromised?

“Will all the 58 water treatment plants be operating optimally to produce quality and clean water that meets the required standards?

“Obviously, the water disruptions do not paint a good picture of the situation or the handling of the termination by the Waterworks Department,” he said.

He also expressed concern over the handling of the workers of the concessionaires, which he claimed is also open to questions and concerns.

He claimed that apparently, the Director of the state Water Department had flown by helicopter on the last day, 14th January, before the termination of the concessionaires to meet the employees of the concessionaires and their sub-contractors and asking them to stay on and work with the Waterworks Department.

“The employees were only asked to fill in job application forms and were not given appointment letters. What will happen if any untoward incidents happen between the termination and the workers’ absorption into the civil service?

“What will happen if some of them opt not to join the government service? And what will be the consequences of the water supply if such a situation arises resulting in insufficient personnel especially professionals and technicians in the production of clean water?

“Was the welfare of the reported 1,300 workers taken into consideration and proper planning done to absorb them into the civil service and that proper procedures following in taking them in as civil servants?

“What will be the long-term impact on the financials of the civil service and State Budget being increased by about 1,300?” he questioned.

He stressed that considering that water supply is a critical and important function, the Sabah government and the Waterworks Department ought to be transparent and be accountable and owes the people a clear and proper explanation.

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