Something is very wrong with the accountability and transparency of a "national project" when the Bakun Hydro-Electric Corporation Bhd (BHC) executive chairman, Tan Sri Ting Pek Khiing can openly rebut the statement made by the Sarawak Chief Minister, Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud and the Minister for Energy, Telecommunications and Posts, Datuk Leo Moggie about the collapse of a coffer dam at the RM13.6 billion Bakun Hydro-electric project.
Taib Mahmud, who was the first to make public such a collapse after attending a Cabinet Committee Meeting on the Bakun Project chaired by Acting Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim on 11th June, had said that although the collapse of the coffer dam delayed slightly work on the project, "it was nothing".
Leo Moggie said in Kuching three days later that the collapse of the coffer dam was normal and would not affect the progress of work. He said: "You are talking about a coffer dam which is temporarily used to hold back water during the time of construction...there is nothing serious."
What is clearly not normal is the open rebuttal of Taib Mahmud and Leo Moggie by Ting Pek Khiing at a press conference in Kuala Lumpur on June 18 that there was no coffer dam built on the site, but only a dike.
This raises the disturbing questions as to whether Taib Mahmud and Leo Moggie know what they are talking about, why the Cabinet Committee on the Bakun Project had discussed the collapse of the coffer dam in Bakun and whether there is proper Federal and State Government monitoring and supervision of a "national project".
The need for a review of the Bakun dam project as a "national project" has been made more urgent as a result of the poor response of the one-for-one Ekran rights issue, which was greatly undersubscribed by 63 per cent. . Only 95.73 million rights or about 37% of the 257.14 million issue were taken up.
On Wednesday, Ting Pek Khiing announced the scrapping of plans for a rights issue to raise another RM3 billion for the project. This has changed the whole capital structure of the project, from the originally proposed RM6 billion equity capital and RM8 billion borrowings to RM3 billion equity capital and RM11 billion borrowings.
At the press conference, Ting Pek Khiing described a question of how he plans to raise funds for the Bakun dam project as "rude".
He said: "Itís not right to speculate where I will get the funds from. This is my private matter. As far as Ekran is concerned, it has the money in the bank because the rights has been completed."
If Ting Pek Khiing regards questions as to how he is going to find the funding for the Bakun dam project as "rude", and that the question of funding is his "private matter", then there is no reason whatsoever for the Bakun dam project to be billed as a "national project".