Another project that screams corruption.
First, Prime Minister Ismail Sabri said the RM30 million renovation of the Prime Minister’s official residence – Seri Perdana – was done after taking into consideration safety factors and to uphold the country’s image when welcoming foreign guests. The renovation includes electrical improvement, mechanical wiring, air-conditioning systems and structural renovation.
The scope of the renovation also involved replacing old furniture to fit the status of the Malaysian leader. Then, Special Functions Minister Abdul Latiff Ahmad revealed that the cost of the renovations was actually higher – RM38.5 million – after it attracted criticisms and scrutiny. He claimed the renovations were necessary as the building had “suffered a lot of damage” in the 22 years since it was built.
Latiff said the project, which was approved on March 19 by then-PM Muhyiddin Yassin (before his resignation on August 16), commenced on March 29 and was expected to be completed by Dec 7 this year. While saying the renovations are 74% completed, Latiff, however, refused or dared not elaborate what he meant with “suffered a lot of damage”.
Today, Muhyiddin, clearly caught with his pants down, finally stepped forward to admit that he personally approved the RM38.5 million renovations. To justify his approval, the former PM began to whine, moan and bitch about old lighting systems, poor flooring conditions, leaking roof, piping systems that damaged built-in cabinets, wooden flooring, wall panels, and whatnot.
Heck, Muhyiddin even claimed that so-called experts told him that the Prime Minister’s official residence could pose a fire risk if repairs were not carried out immediately. He talked as if Seri Perdana is on the brink of collapse with physical damage and obsolete wiring so terrifying that it made any 50-year-old low-cost flat in the country look like Bill Gates’ mansion.
So, were the renovations approved to uphold the country’s image, as if there are foreign dignitaries who really wanted to come and stay during the current Covid-19 pandemic, or were there really serious damages in the first place? PM Sabri’s statement did not sound life-threatening three days ago, but Muhyiddin’s remarks today suggest that the entire residence was not fit for human beings.
Is there anyone who actually believes that an official residence for the prime minister would be left unattended and allowed to deteriorate to such a deplorable level? Was the residence totally unoccupied and without any housekeeping? The clueless, incompetent, and corrupt governments of Ismail Sabri and his predecessor Muhyiddin Yassin should stop insulting people’s intelligence.
The best part was when Muhyiddin said he never occupied Seri Perdana during his time as prime minister. Exactly why did Mahiaddin alias Muhyiddin see it as a jolly good decision to splash RM38.5 million renovations on a residence that he never plan to occupy? Worse, why waste so much taxpayer’s money during a time when people were struggling to put food on the table?
Even though Seri Perdana is already 22 years, it does not make sense that the official residence of the prime minister would be in a shape worse than that of the average Joe and Jane’s house, apartment, flat, or condominium built in the same year. And it’s certainly a lie to say a 22-year-old property could suffer the extent of damages as described by both Ismail Sabri and Muhyiddin Yassin.
Even a low-cost house constructed in the 1980s, which was built with inferior materials than Seri Perdana designed in 1990s for the most powerful man in the country, does not suffer damages that could pose a fire risk today. Unless the Prime Minister’s official residence was a “squatter house”, the exorbitant RM38.5 million renovations were nothing but yet another corruption project.
The Seri Perdana Complex, which was built in 1997 and fully completed in 1999, saw Mahathir Mohamad as its first resident during his 22 years iron-fist rule (from 1981 to 2003). It consists of halls for VIPs, meeting and banquet, as well as South Garden, North Garden, Administration Office and the PM’s main house. The last resident was former PM Najib Razak.
Crooked Najib was ousted in the May 2018 General Election, the first defeat for the corrupt Barisan Nasional government in 61 years since independence in 1957. So, the burning question is how could Najib and his wife Rosmah Mansor live there comfortably and happily without any fear of being roasted due to potential fire, let alone the risk of drowning as a result of leaking pipes?
When Mahathir became the prime minister for the second stint in May 2018, he and wife Siti Hasmah decided not to move to Seri Perdana. The official reason was that the PM’s official residence was too huge. The unofficial reason – the residence was not only tainted with negative energy but was corrupted by years of dark black magic thanks to Auntie Rosie.
That explains why even Muhyiddin had refused to move into Seri Perdana. Regardless of whether the residence was haunted by evil ghosts or polluted with black magic, there was absolutely no reason to splurge RM38.5 million on the mansion. If there isn’t any black magic, it’s even worse to waste that money, considering Najib and Rosmah had stayed there just three years ago.
In truth, over the years, there had been many rounds of renovations on Seri Perdana. In the Budget 2011, a new round of renovations to the tune of RM65 million was proposed under the Najib administration. During Abdullah Badawi’s premiership, the same residence had also undergone several rounds of renovations. Every time a new prime minister takes over, renovations take place.
Yes, Najib should be the last person qualified to grill Muhyiddin over the RM38.5 renovations. Both former prime ministers were equally corrupt in approving renovations during their respective administration in exchange for kickbacks. From the beginning, the Prime Minister’s Palace was designed to enrich the prime minister of the day with dubious projects.
Actually, till today, nobody knows the actual cost of building Seri Perdana. In July 1998, the Mahathir administration said the home of the prime minister would cost only RM17 million. Later, UMNO warlord Nazri Aziz said the cost was RM24.17 million. Then the Parliament was told the total cost was RM75.4 million. In May 1999, the government said another RM45 million on “software” had to be spent.
By 2003, then-Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Nazri Abdul Aziz revealed the sixth version of the cost of Seri Perdana – RM201 million. So, the total cost had ballooned from RM17 million to RM201 million. But the real killer is the cost of endless renovations every time a prime minister awards the project to his relatives or cronies.
In fact, it’s not an exaggeration to say RM38.5 million can build a new Seri Perdana on existing land through open tenders. Still, the residence is too huge. At 56,000 square feet, Seri Perdana is roughly the size of the Ground Floor, State Floor, and residence floors of the White House, which is approximately 55,000 square feet.
Even the notorious former Selangor Chief Minister Khir Toyo reportedly had spent only RM20 million building his bungalow, including exclusive top-of-the-range fixtures and furniture from Bali, on 50,000 square feet of land. Of course, Khir claimed he took a RM3.5 million loan to buy the sprawling Balinese-style mansion, which, if true, is cheaper by more than 10 times the Seri Perdana’s renovations.
So far, we have not heard that Khir Toyo had to spend RM38.5 million in fixing damages due to wear and tear on his bungalow. But when you think how Muhyiddin blatantly spent a jaw-dropping RM35 million to build three useless halls in Johor, the scandal involving Seri Perdana renovations makes perfect sense. It was another project that screams corruption.
The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) should start investigating the renovation project. The contractors and the details of the renovations should be revealed to all and sundry to see. You can build hundreds of affordable houses for the poor, or feed more than 5,000 people with Kentucky Fried Chicken “dinner plate” for an entire year (365 days). – Finance Twitter