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Friday, February 28, 2014

Something stinks in the Selangor water deal


The Putrajaya-Selangor memorandum of understanding (MOU) for the acquisition of state water assets and construction of a RM1.2 billion water treatment plant does not seem to pass the smell test.
And if something does not smell right, it is not right.
First off, Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin today described the MOU signed on Wednesday as a binding agreement, although PAS central committee member Dr Dzukefly Ahmad pointed out it was not, unlike a memorandum of agreement (MOA).
Lawyers have chipped in too on the matter, saying MOUs are not legally binding as they just reflect an intention to work together to a common goal.
"It is normally signed when two parties want to work together, but do not want a legally binding agreement with each other," lawyer Syahredzan Johan told The Malaysian Insider.
"However, I am speaking from the perspective of not having seen the contents of the MoU signed between the Selangor state government and the Federal government."
"What is important is the contents of the document, not the labeling. One can have a perfectly legally binding document and still call it a MoU," Syahredzan said.
The lawyer zoomed in on the main contents of the MOU, saying, "I think in the instance of the current MoU signed by Selangor and Putrajaya, it is in relation to buying over the water concessionaires and the approval for the Langat 2 water treatment plant."
For the two components to conclude, he said there would be legal agreements to acquire the water concessionaires and also to build the RM1.2 billion water treatment plant in Langat, Selangor.
Would the MOU expire if any of the two components do not take off? Does the MOU have a time-frame for each component? The only thing that is public knowledge is that the Selangor government must approve Langat 2 once the tender is issued for the construction.
Is it just about water supply or who will benefit from the construction contracts, one wonders.
While connected businessmen can shout with glee that they would get RM9.65 billion for the four concession holders, others will be happy that there is another infrastructure project to profit from after five years of haggling.
Media reports last year said three companies -- Salcon Bhd, MMC Corp Bhd and Ahmad Zaki Resources Bhd (AZRB) -- have been shortlisted to build the RM1.2 billion Langat 2 water treatment plant project.
The Pahang-Selangor interstate water transfer tunnel is being built with a soft loan of RM2 billion from the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA). There is a 40-year repayment period for the 45km tunnel through the Titiwangsa mountain range.
Apart from that, the project entails the building of a dam and a pumphouse in Pahang, and a water treatment plant in Selangor with the total value said to be about RM7 billion.
While those living in Selangor and Kuala Lumpur will benefit from the project once it is completed as early as 2017, critics say the Langat 2 water treatment plant can only provide water capacity until 2025, and the government would require more plants and dams built after that in the country's most densely populated area.
That would mean more projects in the future, and higher costs. Unless Putrajaya and Selangor insist that the water concessionaires take steps to cut down leaks that lead to a higher portion of non-revenue water (NRW).
There is a need for more treated water to cater to the rising population, but in the rush to provide that, the government should look into more ways to conserve water because more projects just means the taxpayers will have to bear the burden of underwriting the deals, while companies show the profits.
Muhyiddin also said today, "The MoU between the federal and state governments are for the benefit of the people to alleviate the water crisis in the Klang Valley with the construction of the Langat 2 treatment plant."
This would take another three years.
Nowhere does the MOU talk about ways to stop leakages and NRW. If PKR and Barisan Nasioanl (BN) politicians think they are doing Selangor a favour with the deal, they have to think again. The only ones benefitting appear to be the contractors. 

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