Kuching new prison along the road to Borneo Height is among the costliest and most expensive prison complex projects in the country.

The admin block of Sarawak prison in Kuching

It has been RM56.1mil over budget, delayed for decade, scaled down and investigated by the Malaysian Anti Corruption Commission (MACC).

An the 2010 Auditor-General report said the construction of the complex was initially estimated to cost RM165mil, with a capacity to house 2,665 inmates and prison staff.

The final cost ballooned to RM221.11mil. The complex was reduced to house only 1,366 inmates and staff.

The project which began on May 1997 was supposed to have been completed in a little over three years. It was completed over 11 years later on Aug 31, 2008.

The report said the increase in cost was because the project was plagued by delays and left abandoned by the original contractor, WMM Holdings Sdn Bhd.

Why government chose WMM Holding? The Star enquiry to the Prison Department revealed the original contractor was paid in accordance with their claims that the same method was practised during the construction of the Sungai Buloh Prison.

“When the Sungai Buloh Prison was built, the surveyor for the project was appointed by the contractor.

“Given the success of the Sungai Buloh project, the prison department thought the same method of construction would be replicable in the Kuching prison complex project, the national daily Star said, qouting report it had obtained from the Prison Department.

Another glaring and costliest mistake the authorities made was having no technical officer with the expertise to check the claims made by the contractor.

Thus they had relied solely on the professionalism of the contractor appointed surveyor. It then resulted in WMM made a whooping RM132.67mil progress payment claimed, saying they had completed 84.3% of the project.

However later they discovered the contractor had only completed about 41% of the project, valued at RM67.96mil, after an inspection by the Public Works Department report, dated July 2003.

Because of the oversight, Government had overpaid WMM by RM64.71mil.

Although RM49.1mil was eventually recovered from the original contractor,  further delay was unavoidable as they had to appoint another contractor to finish the unfinished job – which further increase the whole project cost.

They had to destroy and rebuild several blocks as they were not built according to specifications.

The true extent of the construction progress by the original contractor was only discovered three years after the project was meant to be completed.

“Although the amount of RM132.67mil was paid prior to the August 2000 deadline in accordance with the completion progress claimed by WMM Holdings, only an inspection by the Public Works Department report, dated July 2003, revealed the truth,” said the report.