RM17.3m city orchard project doomed from start, audit shows

Flashback of The Malay Mail's expose on the 'fruitless' orchard.
Flashback of The Malay Mail's expose on the 'fruitless' orchard.

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KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 3 — The controversial Taman Dusun Bandar project in Jalan Bellamy was deemed a failure by the auditor-general.

The Auditor-General’s Report 2012 revealed the RM17.25 million project undertaken by contractor Zikhtar Associates Sdn Bhd was done through direct negotiations not approved by the Finance Ministry.

According to guidelines, direct negotiation contracts can only be entered into in cases involving safety and only a limited number of contractors can be involved.

The orchard park project did not fall under any of these categories.

Another shocking revelation in the report is Zikhtar Associates and landscape architects Gold Green Associates Sdn Bhd did not possess the required experience to develop the orchard.

At the time of appointment, only 18 per cent of projects handled by Zikhtar Associates were recreation related but those projects were only limited to planting and cutting of grass on road reserves.

Even Gold Green was an inexperienced company with only eight per cent of its projects related to recreation activities, limited to golf courses.

Investigations by the Audit Department also revealed the orchard project was not developed according to its objective which was to create a public park to enable visitors to learn more about local fruits. 

According to the auditor-general’s report, the original plan for the park, 100 local fruit species were supposed to be planted in the area. However, there are no details on whether the fruit trees were planted as planned.

“From the 2,528 trees which were planted, only 573 or 22.7 per cent were local fruit trees while the remaining 1,955 or 77.3 per cent were forest and wild fruit trees,” it said.

Only RM2.31 million from the RM17.25 million was spent on softscape works while the remaining RM14.94 million was allocated for other components including building and hardscape works.

An audit visit on September 27 last year revealed that the park had not been opened to the public despite it being completed by the contractor on April 30, 2010.

The auditor-general further stated that among reasons why the contract failed were:

● No evidence that Zikhtar Associates made an application for City Hall officers to inspect the composition of topsoil, subsoil and compost for softscape works. This was against the conditions set in the softscape contract work;

● Contrary to the material and workmanship specification contract, there was no evidence that the consultants and subcontractors had given 48 hour notice to the the project director (City Hall) before carrying out planting works;

●    Contractor did not plant trees according to guidelines set by the National Landscape Department;

●    No evidence that Zikhtar Associates had carried out scheduled maintenance work throughout the defect liability period which ended in April 2012; and

●    A letter issued by City Hall’s landscape department dated April 23, 2012, stated the department found Zikhtar Associates had not carried out maintenance work during the defect liability period but checks found that City Hall only deducted RM57,000 (10 per cent) from the component maintenance fee which had been agreed upon.

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