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Wednesday August 8, 2012

Halcrow under probe

MACC checks for any conflict of interest, integrity of evaluation on bids

PETALING JAYA: British engineering company Halcrow is under investigation by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) for a potential conflict of interest and on the integrity of the evaluation process of eight bidders for the RM965mil Ampang light rail transit (LRT) job.

Halcrow, which was appointed independent evaluator of the eight bidders for the LRT job, was tasked with assessing the capabilities of the bidders which included a joint venture consortium led by George Kent (M) Bhd and other tenders by joint-venture companies involving companies such as Balfour Beatty.

The police have also started separate investigations into how classified documents were leaked, which has since been used to create a political storm over the award of the contract to the eventually winner of the tender the George Kent-Lion Pacific joint venture.

“The relevant authorities are investigating the matter,” said Syarikat Prasarana Negara Bhd group managing director Datuk Shahril Mokhtar.

Sources said the MACC and the police had interviewed officials in Prasarana on those two separate allegations, the first surrounding Halcrow in its role as an independent evaluator.

MACC director of investigations Datuk Mustafa Ali confirmed the commission was looking into the matter but declined to elaborate.

Halcrow, which was to assess the capabilities of the bidders on behalf of Prasarana, undertook a technical evaluation of all the companies involved in the tenders, including one by the Invensys-Balfour Beatty Rail-Ingress consortium.

The British-based company that provides major consultancy services for infrastructure developments was to have independently evaluated the bid submissions for the Ampang LRT extension and report its findings, had a prior working relationship with Balfour Beatty in a past tender.

A search of both companies revealed that directors and top officials of both Halcrow and Balfour Beatty had positions in joint-venture companies established by both companies to bid for the Hounslow Highways PFI contract in the UK. It did not win that bid.

Balfour Beatty and Halcrow were part of a consortium that won a £35mil (RM169mil) Porthmadog, Tremadog and Minffordd bypass in Wales.

Both companies had also formed a joint-venture company for a project in the Jebel Ali Free Trade Zone.

The relationship between both Halcrow and Balfour Beatty might have given rise to questions whether proper disclosure was made of their relationship prior to the appointment of Halcrow to independently assess the companies bidding for the project.

The scorecard of the companies bidding for the project has since been politicised by PKR's director of strategy Rafizi Ramli. On July 3, he disclosed details of the Halcrow technical report which was critical of George Kent and questioned the award of the Ampang LRT project to George Kent.

The police are probing how the documents were leaked under the Official Secrets Act and have interviewed Prasarana officials on that matter.

Prasarana has since commented that the leaked details of the Halcrow report did not give the public a full picture of the entire tender and award process.

“Dated selective excerpts have been superseded by new information resulting from the clarifications. They did not do justice by labelling certain activities as interference' when what were and are being done are due diligence processes by the Government,” Prasarana media manager Azhar Ghazali said in his comment on July 20.

The George Kent-Lion Pacific consortium has refuted allegations it was incapable of delivering on the Ampang LRT extension project.

“We strongly refute the baseless allegations that GKLP-JV (George Kent-Lion Pacific joint venture) failed the full technical and commercial evaluations. There were numerous criteria considered by consultants, the Finance Ministry and by Prasarana,” said George Kent executive director Dr Cheong Thiam Fook in a statement on Aug 2. George Kent is confident it would deliver the system works for the Ampang LRT extension on cost and on time.

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