Homes for families of armed forces in poor shape due to lack of funds, audit finds | Malaysia

PAC chairman Datuk Noraini Ahmad and Auditor-General Datuk Nik Azman Nik Abdul Majid pose with a copy of the Auditor-General’s 2018 Report in Parliament October 14, 2019. — Picture by Hari Anggara
PAC chairman Datuk Noraini Ahmad and Auditor-General Datuk Nik Azman Nik Abdul Majid pose with a copy of the Auditor-General’s 2018 Report in Parliament October 14, 2019. — Picture by Hari Anggara

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 14 — Housing facilities for families of Armed Forces personnel (RKAT) are in poor shape due to insufficient financial allocations and inconsistent monitoring, as stated by the National Audit Department.

The allocations provided to the Defence Ministry for maintaining RKATs were also inefficiently managed, such as being used to procure low-value movable assets, a weak adherence to internal rules, and disorganised records management.

“This means the objectives of ensuring conducive RKAT buildings, prolonging their lifespans, reducing damages and guaranteeing the safety of its occupants has not been achieved,” stated the Auditor-General’s Report 2018 Series 1 on the activities of federal ministries, agencies, and statutory bodies.

A basic amenity for serving Armed Forces members, RKATs are part of the ministry’s responsibilities in looking after the welfare of their families and also serve to ease the deployment of troops whenever needed. Only married service members, widowed, or single mothers can qualify for occupancy.

As of December last year, the Armed Forces has prepared 54,497 RKAT units in 100 locations nationwide. Of this, 73.4 per cent or 40,024 are already occupied, with 2,212 units or 4.1 per cent renovated into annexes, and the remainder 12,261 units or 22.5 per cent unoccupied.

In its findings, the report highlighted numerous weaknesses, including the inability to fully realise RKAT maintenance blueprints for the Army headquarters.

“From 2016 to 2018, only 2,447 units or 28 per cent were approved for corrective maintenance, compared to the 8,724 units under planning. From 2015 to 2018, 26,487 complaints were recorded, with 17,014 or 64.2 per cent resolved while the remainder 9,473 or 35.8 per cent could not be addressed.

“Planned preventive repairs for elevators could not be fully carried out, while all 458 units of water pumps which were not planned for maintenance with an additional 55 more units that have been damaged, have not been replaced,” it said.

More tellingly, RKAT allocations for 2015 to 2018 at RM258.45 million was actually insufficient, compared to the original request of RM1.04 billion for its maintenance.

“As well as this, not all housing locations under the responsibility of the ministry’s Defence Engineering Services Division received maintenance allocations, resulting in damages being left unrepaired despite contractors already being appointed,” read the report.

Other problems faced include late payment of the contractors, unsatisfactory maintenance of water pumps and its surroundings, and non-adherence to electrical laws such as improper fuse shortening.

Both the division and the Army headquarters’ logistics branch made RM2.32 million in procurements for the maintenance of five elevators, and RM1.64 million for 12 RKAT maintenance/repair works, despite not having the authorisation to do so.

The report’s first recommendation was to the Finance Ministry, requesting they consider increasing the allocations meant for RKAT maintenance as many of the facilities are highly damaged.

“The Defence Ministry should ensure adherence to all internal rules, so as to prevent the misuse of the existing allocation during the procurement process. For the Armed Forces, a preventive maintenance plan or programme must be formulated for the water pumps, as well as the creation of guidelines for elevator maintenance.

“Effort should be made so that immediate repairs can be made to any damaged RKAT units, especially those currently occupied, so as to ensure the safety and comfort of its residents. Unoccupied units should not be left derelict without security,” said the report.

Both the ministry and the Armed Forces were advised to take disposal measures of units which have been identified as no longer being safe for occupancy, so as to avoid them being unknowingly used.

“The ministry should also take the initiative of improving the process of preparing contract documents for contractors, so that the repeated delays can be avoided,” concluded the report.

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