By S BIRRUNTHA
THE process of a school repairs project in Sarawak has begun at an accelerated pace since Aug 5, Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng (picture) affirmed.
In a statement released by his ministry, Lim expressed his disappointment and denied the claims by Sarawak Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Openg that the deteriorated schools there are not yet repaired.
He said Abang Johari’s allegation that the ministry had demanded a committee be set up to repair the schools is untrue.
“Four special committees on the federal government level for the implementation and monitoring of the project were set up since March 19 this year.
“His statement contradicted the federal government’s efforts to implement and expedite the rehabilitation project by considering the state government’s requests and needs.
“Although the state government’s debt repayment of nearly RM350 million was only received on Aug 8, the ministry issued a letter on Aug 5 and authorised the Education Ministry (MoE) to begin early works.”
Lim said the MoF had again sent a letter to the MoE on Aug 14, informing that payment by the Sarawak state government had been received, and had asked the latter to accelerate the first phase of the project.
He added that the federal government made an exception in approving the application for the Sarawak Works Department to monitor the project and to give priority to local contractors operating in the state.
“Subsequently, the MoE issued a letter of authorisation to the Works Ministry DG to enable the Sarawak Works Department to begin initial repairs immediately.
The department yesterday identified seven dilapidated schools which can be called for tender, while the remaining 30 projects are expected to be submitted by the end of October.
Lim stressed that the state government’s proposal to use the loan repayment to repair schools was the federal government’s advance money, since it involved the use of funds lent to the state government.
“If it is considered as a loan repayment to the federal government, this would mean the RM1 billion or RM350 million funds actually belong to the federal government itself, which is used for repairing the schools,” he added.