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Saturday, November 29, 2014

MAHB: Stuck on Stupid

MAHB: Stuck on Stupid
The recent Public Accounts Committee (PAC) report on klia2, after a painstaking investigation for more than a year, has highlighted many key weaknesses on the part of Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd (MAHB). Among the notable ones are:
failure to prioritise the needs and “obviously not concerned” about its clients in building klia2. Instead, klia2 was built to its own preference and later forced it unto the airlines.
MAHB has made “unrealistic promises” to the government regarding the completion time of klia2.
MAHB ignored expert calls to locate the terminal at the northern side of KLIA, but instead chose the western site of KLIA despite fully knowing of the soft peat soil makeup.
MAHB ignored recommendation to build a “finger-pie” design for klia2, but chosen a satellite concept that it the cause of grouses for long-walks and massive size than really required.
PAC urged the Attorney-General (AG) to identify individuals that are responsible so that follow-up action can be taken.
These are damming statements. Short of saying you guys are useless and must be reprimanded.
PAC has interviewed and had taken accounts from all sides (MAHB, AirAsia, Transport Ministry, Immigration Department among others). The conduct is professional and there is no bias, no politics or emotions at play.
This is the Federal Court per say, and the verdict is unanimous: MAHB is guilty!
No surprise
For those of us who have been involved and following the klia2 project, none of these finding is hardly surprising.
The original KLIA took 3½ years to complete from the first earthworks, and this excludes the 1½ years for planning and preparatory works.
MAHB had initially fooled all of us thinking they could do it in less than two years. Then when the inevitable reality kicks in, the flurry of excuses started to pile in and MAHB pointed the blame to everyone else.
In the end, klia2 took 4½ years to complete based on the May 2, 2014 commencement date. But alas, klia2 is not really “done” as it is still handling the apron ponding issues and other shortcomings of the terminal building.
If MAHB is worthy of a recognition, then it is the world champion of “don’t want to listen to experts”.
Its innate belief in its own nonsense is incredible and the stuff of legends. When the west side of KLIA was chosen as the site for klia2, the groundwork engineers stated that it will take no less than three years to stabilise.
It is impossible to pinpoint when the ground will be ready and Mother Nature will decide according to the engineers.
But MAHB will have none of this. It said it can be done in one to 1½ years by way of thumping the table and say “don’t you know who I am” attitude.
We know where that “bodoh sombong” attitude got us to. When you have a non-engineer making an engineering decision, the outcome is never pretty.
Designing terminal building is admittedly subjective and tricky. Everyone has his own point of view. What is beautiful? What is practical? What is the “wow” factor? It goes on and on.
I won’t criticise the terminal building apart from that it is too big with endless walk.
Surely, there is a better way to build it? The architects say yes, there are plethora of design that will do a better job. But sadly, we will never know.
Culture of self-glorify and self-satisfaction
The Skybridge (the bridge that connects the main terminal to the satellite building) shouldn’t have ever been built and avoided at all cost.
However, MAHB ever so proudly claims that “we are one of the three airports in the world to have a Skybridge”.
What’s startling is, the two airports that have a Skybridge (Phoenix Sky Harbor, USA and Gatwick Airport, UK) build their skybridges as there is no other option to connect their terminals.
The terminals were originally constructed with no intention for it to be connected. However, as time goes on the requirements have changed. Both these airports serves as an example of how “not to” build terminal buildings in order to avoid building a costly bridge.
Unfortunately, MAHB so happily and proudly built a Skybridge from the first day as if it is a good thing. Arrrgghhh...
Who did MAHB had in mind when they build the Skybridge? Certainly not the person who is running and panting as he/she rushes to Gate P21 for his/her about-to-depart international flight.
What is the point of the Skybridge? Who benefits? How does it make the airport better?
Conclusion
In short, MAHB in entirety has failed to provide Malaysians with the best possible infrastructure at klia2.
What we got instead is an overpriced facility, which double up as an indoor marathon training facility, with sinking apron and God knows what else in future to come.
At the heart of it, the problem stems from MAHB’s un-shameful demeanour of deflecting blame, it has always absolved itself from blame by pointing its finger to someone else, be it AirAsia, UEM, Bina Puri, the rain, rising construction material cost, the scarcity of labour, etc.
It also thinks and behaves as if it is smarter than everyone by refusing to listen and adopt a “do as I say” attitude.
Above all, MAHB is too focused on superlatives, i.e the biggest, tallest, prettiest rather than what is actually best for the people.
The audacity of stupidity
It is one thing of being stupid, but it’s another being proudly stupid. After the PAC has squarely put the blame on MAHB, this hasn’t stopped the “I’m not guilty behaviour”.
Commenting on PAC’s call for MAHB to be audited by the A-G, Datuk Badlisham Ghazali (MAHB CEO) question on the need for it to open its books and stated that it is subjected to “higher scrutiny” from other regulators.
Perhaps Badlisham forgot that the word “P” in PAC stands for “public”, and the report is presented to Dewan Rakyat.
f the “rakyat” isn’t the highest scrutiny in his mind, than we have a fundamental problem.
The lack of “jiwa rakyat” is unacceptable given that airport is a public infrastructure.
No doubt that MAHB is a public-listed company and have to comply with various auditors, Securities Commission and shareholders’ scrutiny, but you must never forget that it serves the public.
Will Malaysians get justice?
PAC has done a good job to pursuit the truth. It’s time for action. There is no point in arguing or even a discussing with MAHB, all you get it denial.
Besides, Mark Twain said it best in dealing with such people: “Never argue with stupid people, they will drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience.”
If MAHB is ever to progress to the next level, then the responsible people in the organisation has to be removed and replaced with better qualified individuals.
First start with the board, the chairman and the independent directors must step down, as they are proven gullible.
“Everything is above the board” is the most common saying by MAHB’s management. Now you know why.
Second, the direct management namely the CEO (or rather the CEO adviser because he was the one in charge then), the COO (as he oversees the construction phase exclusively) and the CFO (for telling a bag of lies) have to go.
These are the most responsible individuals and they need to understand what “karma” means.
Third, address the failure at the shareholder level.
Khazanah Nasional is the controlling shareholder of MAHB, all this happened on their watch. For an organisation entrusted with the duty to manage the country’s assets – and drawing hefty salaries I may add, it has failed, too.
PAC is my hero for championing the “rakyat”, hint hint Mr Prime Minister.
Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed (PAC chairman) has proven to be an honest and hardworking person with a relentless quest to find the truth.
He has delivered, time and again. The Malaysian public should be appreciative of such person of calibre helming the important post. The onus is now on the powers that be, do we act or we make “don’t know”. –TMI

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