Press Statement for immediate release
24 May 2016
The shocking request by the YAB Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng yesterday that his application via a letter to the Works Minister for a 3rd Penang bridge to be approved prior to any submission of supporting documents is an indication that this is a continuation of his politicking and not a sincere request.
Even an application for a house extension or to rent a municipal stall from the Penang Govt would require submitting supporting documents.
What more that this is a multi-billion ringgit infrastructure project that has big implications for traffic flow of our entire highway system as well as to the long-term planning for the development of the area?
No government in the world would approve such a request based on a letter without proper documentation submitted, in-depth studies and deliberation.
At first, YAB Lim accused the Federal Government of previously not approving a request for a 3rd Bridge and that is why they were forced to build a tunnel with a 30 years toll concession instead.
But when the Works Minister pointed out that there was never any such application or even discussions on this, YAB Lim backtracked and gave the incredulous answer that there was no such requests in the past because they were not brave enough to put in a proposal in the first place.
To me, this is a bizarre reason as this means that the Penang Govt had committed with agreement to spend at least RM2 billion more of the Penang Rakyat's money for a tunnel instead of a bridge and impose 30 years toll just because he was not brave enough to apply.
I do not find this an acceptable reason at all and is certainly not an example of good governance. The Rakyat of Penang deserve better.
Whether it is a 3rd bridge or a tunnel with toll or without toll does not detract from the fact the many key questions that have been asked by many quarters on the Penang Govt's tunnel project have yet to be adequately explained.
Such questions include :
1. Whether RM305 million for 3 studies is justifiable;
2. Why was the special-purpose vehicle company awarded to do the 3 studies able to register profit after tax of RM59.4 million on revenues of RM51.8 million on a paid-up capital of RM8 million if their main business activity to date is just to do the studies;
3. Whether there is any conflict of interest in awarding the feasibility study to the same company which is also awarded to construct the RM6.34 billion project;
4. Why did the Penang Govt choose to fully fund the entire construction cost but still allow a private company to collect 30 years toll at the same rate as the 2nd Penang bridge;
5. Whether DAP has ditched its previous manifesto stance and is now no longer against tolls;
6. Why did the Penang Govt pay for the project using a pre-identified quantity of prime seaside state land - expected to appreciate in value strongly - at 2012 prices for a project that would only see completion in the year 2025 at the earliest. This could mean that the true cost of the project to the Penang people could reach RM15 billion or even RM20 billion by the time of completion in 2025 - even before taking into consideration the 30 years of toll collection; and
7. Why didn't the Penang govt sell this land in stages based on the construction progress and take advantage of the land appreciation value instead of allowing the private company to benefit from this land appreciation.
After the DAP Penang Govt had vehemently defended the Tunnel project and the toll concession for the past 4 years and paying RM305 million for the 3 studies which they say is already near completion, many people had expressed surprise that the Penang Govt has suddenly and very readily dropped the tunnel project with tolls in favour of a 3rd bridge.
I also note that YB Lim Hock Seng had also confirmed if the project is dropped, the RM305 million paid for the 3 studies is "hangus" and cannot be recovered or refunded to the state government.
If it was such a good project that was transparently awarded based on good decision-making and above scrutiny, why the sudden eagerness to drop it?
Is this because the Penang Govt is not able to answer our simple straight-forward questions and stand up to scrutiny and now seeks to drop the project and attempt to divert the public's attention to a Federal and State Govt discussion on a 3rd bridge?
The fact that the Penang State Government's Public Accounts Committee (PAC) report on the Penang Tunnel project has been twice delayed leading to an angry outburst and thumping of table by a PKR ADUN during the recent Penang State Assembly may provide clues to the reasons for this sudden decision to drop the tunnel project.
Dato' Abdul Rahman Dahlan,
Director of BN Strategic Communications.