Major road projects under fire for delays

National 3 minutes, 22 seconds

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN

ROAD projects to improve access to remote areas and the comfort of road users were among the topics raised during the sixth session of the State Legislative Council yesterday.

State Legislative Council member YB Hj Mohd Shafiee Ahmad, who is also chairman of the Kg Lumut Consultative Council in Belait, posed several questions about the progress of the Telisai-Lumut highway, a $138 million project which he said was tendered to a foreign "wholesaler" (contractor), Surati Construction Sdn Bhd, and a local company.

The project was initiated to ease traffic jams in the area during peak hours.

"When will the construction work for the dual carriageway start? What per cent of job and business opportunities in the project are offered to locals, and if there has been no progress, why?" he asked.

Development Minister YB Pehin Orang Kaya Hamzah Pahlawan Dato Seri Setia Hj Abdullah Begawan Mudim Dato Paduka Hj Bakar responded by saying that the project was being executed by the Brunei Economic Development Board (BEDB), and therefore he would be quoting their answers.

"Before that, I would like to make a correction. Surati Construction is not a foreign (company), but a local one," he said, before reading out the answers given by BEDB.

"The early groundwork began on February 16, 2010 and this includes the survey and site clean-up. InsyaAllah the earthwork, construction of site administrative office, depot and workshop will begin soon," he said, adding that the construction of the highway is expected to be completed on February, 15, 2013.

"BEDB also announced that it has appointed Zheng Ahn Zhi from China as a sub-contractor for 75 per cent of the work.

"However, a large part of the work includes providing building supplies, which will be given to local (companies), such as for minor work and ground levelling, drains and sewerage construction, providing gravel, structural components for bridges, fixing streetlights, laying asphalt, and so on," said the minister.

He added that the BEDB had also identified job opportunities in several fields to be offered to locals, especially vacancies in areas such as project management and logistic administration, though he did not give a specific number of how many jobs the project will provide to locals.

The questions kept coming, with YB Orang Kaya Maha Bijaya Hj Othman Uking asking about the Lubok-Nihing road project, which was supposed to be completed by the end of 2008, according to an announcement made during the 2006 LegCo session.

"I understand that the project has stopped. I want to know why and when will it resume and be completed?"

He also asked whether the upgrading of the road shoulders along Tutong-Muara highway will be extended to nearby villages and rural areas in the interior.

"This project is a 22km road from the junction at Jalan Kampung Belaban to the dam at Namoknik. The operation is part of the Ulu Tutong Dam project that was originally scheduled to be completed in early 2009," said the minister.

He explained that the contract with the original contractor was terminated in May 2007 due to unsatisfactory progress. One of the main causes was that the foreign contractor tasked to carry out the main operations was experiencing financial difficulties.

"Alhamdulillah, the project was offered again and the new contractor began February, 2010 and, InsyaAllah, it is expected to be completed in October, 2013," he said.

He confirmed that as Tutong-Muara Highway was classified a "primary" road that road shoulders will be built along it.

He added that road shoulders have been already installed along "secondary" roads, such as Jalan Muara, Jln Berakas, Jln Kota Batu, Jln Limau Manis and Jln Jujungan, and that road shoulders were being installed along main roads outside the capital, such as Jln Lamunin and Jln Kuala Lurah, as well as along roads in rural areas.

Under the National Development Plan, a total of $120 million has been allocated to upgrade roads in villages and the interior for the safety and comfort of road users.

The Brunei Times