19.8.2021: Assistance rendered to company even before open tenders called, court told
SOURCE: NST ONLINE
By Sharanjit Singh – August 19, 2021 @ 6:10pm
KUALA LUMPUR: Officials from a company awarded the Penang undersea tunnel and three paired roads project had engaged in meetings with state officials and received help in preparing a Request for Proposal (RFP) for the project even before an open tender was called, the Sessions Court heard today.
A key prosecution witness in former Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng‘s corruption trial, former Penang state Public Works, Public Utilities and Transportation Affairs committee chairman Datuk Lim Hock Seng, acknowledged that no other company bidding for the project had received similar treatment.
The court also heard from another witness that no work apart from a feasibility study and preliminary design had been carried out on the undersea tunnel while only preliminary works on one of the three paired roads had been carried out.
This was for the 5.7km Ayer Itam-Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu Expressway bypass.
However, despite this, state land had already been transferred to Consortium Zenith BUCG (CZBUCG) as cost for the feasibility study and preliminary design.
The company, it was heard, had even managed to convert the land status from leasehold to freehold for a RM5 million fee.
However, the court heard that there was nothing sinister in the deal as all procedures were followed and everything done above board.
Today’s hearing started with Guan Eng’s lawyer Gobind Singh Deo continuing his cross-examination of Hock Seng.
Hock Seng explained that the state government under Guan Eng had actually followed the same plan used for the proposed Penang Outer Ring Road (PORR) project under the then chief minister Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon for the three paired roads project, namely the bypass from Gurney Drive to Lebuhraya Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu, the Air Itam – Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu Expressway bypass and the Jalan Tanjung Bungah – Teluk Bahang paired road.
He said only minor modifications to the alignment had been done on the roads to avoid issues with residents living along the route.
Hock Seng explained that the PORR project had been considered from way back in the 1980s to overcome the traffic congestion issue on Penang roads.
The longtime Penang-based DAP leader said Tsu Koon’s administration was unable to carry out the project as the federal government had then refused to fund it.
He said when the DAP took over, the state government used the land swap method where state land, instead of cash, was used as payment to those interested in undertaking construction of the tunnel and roads.
“This was a state government decision. There is no problem with this plan. It is just another model to finance the project,” he said, adding the state government had given Lot 702 and Lot 713 to CZBUCG as payment for the feasibility study and preliminary design which had been completed.
He said CZBUCG later applied for the 99 year lease on the land to be converted to freehold status and this was done after the company paid a RM5 million fee.
Later, when re-examined by Deputy Public Prosecutors (DPP) Wan Shaharuddin Wan Ladin and Nik Haslinie Hashim, Hock Seng was asked to explain about Guan Eng’s instructions for him to meet with Consortium Zenith Construction managing director Datuk Zarul Ahmad Mohd Zulkefli.
Asked if Guan Eng had ordered similar meetings with others bidding for projects in the state, Hock Seng initially replied in the negative but later clarified that it was normal for people to seek help for various reasons and the chief minister was obliged to sort out whatever issues they faced.
Hock Seng was also asked about two memorandums of understanding which the state government had signed with CZBUCG even before an open tender for the tunnel project was called apart form the meetings and help extended to the company in preparing for its RFP.
He acknowledged that such meetings happened and the signing of the MOU but said there was nothing sinister about it as it had been made clear to the company that the project would be awarded through open tender.
Meanwhile, fourth prosecution witness, Muhamad Azrai Muhamad Zaini, testified that no work had started on the tunnel project while only preliminary work had been conducted on one of the three paired roads.
The 39-year old executive secretary at the chief minister’s office will continue with his testimony when trial resumes before Sessions Court Judge Azura Alwi tomorrow.
Guan Eng, who is DAP secretary-general, is accused of soliciting a 10 per cent cut in profits from the tunnel project from Zarul and seeking RM3.3 million in kickbacks to appoint Zarul’s company to undertake the project.
He also faces two counts of dishonestly misappropriating RM208.7 million worth of state land to two companies.
Malay Mail: Court told Consortium Zenith BUCG signed MOU with Penang months before open tender process for undersea tunnel began