Wednesday, October 27

Firm says report based on lies

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File photo shows Saidi (left) and Jepak Holdings chairman Abang Nawawi Abang Drahman during the interview in Kuching in January last year.

KUCHING: Bintulu-based Jepak Holdings Sdn Bhd managing director Saidi Abang Samsudin said his company is contemplating lodging a police report against online whistleblower Sarawak Report for publishing an article about its project ‘based on lies’.

Saidi said while it is true that he had secured the project through direct negotiation with the previous federal government to supply solar energy to 369 schools in Sarawak, the cost is RM750 million and not RM1.2 billion as alleged by the website.

“The RM1.2 billion is the total cost of various projects including maintenance and supply of diesel.

“If one cares to compare the cost of RM750 million covering 369 schools, it is in fact cheaper than the cost of a similar project in Sabah which only covers 176 schools,” he said when contacted yesterday.

“(The) project has been awarded, however, (and) the company is in the midst of submitting plans. We have not collected any money related to the project,” he asserted.

In an article published yesterday, Sarawak Report alleged that former Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, who was also Finance Minister then, signed off on hundreds of millions of ringgit for the solar project for schools in Sarawak, in what the whistleblower claimed was a scam. It also alleged that Saidi has benefited from his contacts with Najib’s wife Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor.

“The solar energy project for schools in Sarawak started in 2015 is ongoing. The direct negotiation contract is legal.

“How could it not be legal? We will lodge a police report soon against Sarawak Report after I have talked to my lawyers. Its article is based on lies,” stressed Saidi, who called the article ‘baseless’ and calculated to disparage his reputation as a businessman.

In a press conference held in January last year, Saidi said the installation of the solar hybrid system for rural schools would “only take a month”, and that the company would be utilising “the latest technology from Germany and Italy”.

“Work will start in February (2017) and our in-house consultants will start surveying work and conduct site preparations work. We have the work schedule and have to complete the total project in 36 months with the provision for another two years’ extension due to rainy season.”

When asked during the same interview on how the solar hybrid system works, Saidi explained: “When there is no sunlight, the system will automatically switch to generator sets. This solar hybrid system will reduce the dependency on generator sets and, at the same time, reduce cost by up to 70 per cent compared to use of generator sets.”

Saidi refused to disclose how the contract for the supply of diesel to school and solar hybrid system was awarded through direct negotiation. Instead, he asked the reporters to refer the matter to the Education Ministry.

The press conference was called following The Borneo Post’s exposure that 369 rural schools began their new schooling session with a gloomy start due to little or no fuel for the generators to power up their fans, lights, computers and other appliances.

The article by Sarawak Report yesterday claimed it has sighted copious documents indicating that in January 2017, Najib had personally pushed through a RM1.25-billion project awarded to Jepak Holdings – a car rental company in Bintulu – purporting to install solar energy panels for 369 schools in the interior of Sarawak.

The website said there were also letters signed by Najib authorising the Ministry of Education (MoE) to overrule strict rules on tendering and price negotiation during the awarding of the project and later, for payments to continue to be made even though the terms of the contract were not being fulfilled by Jepak Holdings, said the website.

It added that MoE staffers who raised concerns about quality control were transferred from their posts and that reports to the police and Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) were ignored right up until the last general election.

Quoting insiders, Sarawak Report said several companies qualified to install solar panels in Malaysia were bypassed for the contract in favour of the politically-connected Jepak Holdings Sdn Bhd, which lacked a track record in the field.

“Now, 18 months into the three-year contract, not a single solar power unit has yet been installed at any of the designated schools, although the money (coming in) has continued.

“Previous to this project, which was touted to provide cleaner, cheaper solar energy, the affected schools relied on diesel generators supplied and maintained by some 30 local companies, who were required to regularly tender for the service contracts by the Ministry of Education. Jepak Holdings had held one of the contracts.

“However, under the new contract, Jepak Holdings took over the entire diesel supply and maintenance work for all 369 schools for an agreed lump sum of RM21.8 million a month, whilst simultaneously being tasked to convert the schools to solar hybrid systems at a rate of at least 10 schools a month,” said the Sarawak Report article.

It added that insiders say the diesel contract was in fact heavily inflated above the actual cost of supplying the schools, whilst pointing out that Jepak Holdings is primarily a car rental company set up in 1985.

Meanwhile, online news portal Malaysiakini reported that it has sighted some of the documents related to the contracts.