KUALA LUMPUR: Work to re-lay artificial turf on the two pitches at the National Hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil — once the pride of world hockey — has been abandoned amidst allegations of irregularities in awarding the close to RM5 million contract.
Work started on April 5 but stopped abruptly two weeks ago for reasons unknown. The scheduled completion of turf upgrading by Dec 20 is now in question.
Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Ahmad Shabery Cheek told The Malay Mail that he would look into alleged irregularities and invited the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) to investigate.
“I’m in a difficult position as I cannot be seen as interfering with the decisions made by the Merdeka Stadium Board (MSB) but I will not tolerate any irregularities. If there are any elements of irregularities, I will look into it. These are public funds and the public deserve a proper answer," said the minister.
"Let the MACC come into the picture. I'm not protecting anyone."
It has been alleged that a senior MSB officer has links with the local company awarded the project. The company, in turn, was alleged to have sub-contracted the job to another firm.
Ahmad Shabery was responding to claims that the Tender Board of the MSB had ignored the advice of the Malaysian Hockey Federation (MHF) to buy a new technology highgrade German turf instead of an "inferior" Belgian product.
MHF president Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah had written to Ahmad Shabery on July 14 expressing concern that MHF’s recommendation was ignored. Said Ahmad Shabery: “I told MSB about what Tengku Abdullah and the MHF had proposed earlier, but they said it was too late as the tender had already been awarded.
“MSB claims that their turf is also recognised (by the International Hockey Federation). My concern is that they should have listened to MHF’s advice as the national federation knows what’s best for the sport.”
Seven firms, with products all certified by the International Hockey Federation, had bid for the project.
The decision to purchase the Belgian brand Domo has raised eyebrows because it has never been used for any world-class tournament.
MHF secretary Hashim Mohamed Yusof said when their advice was sought by the tender board “we mentioned that the German turf is a better option".
On the delay to complete the work on time, Hashim said: “I was told that we would be able to use the turf by Oct 31, but judging by the delay in works, I doubt that is possible. We now need to scout for another training venue for the national team.”
“MSB is the owner and we have to adhere to their timing. We have no choice.”
However, a billboard outside the stadium states that turf upgrading works would only be completed by Dec 20.
The preparation of the national team have been badly affected as they have been forced to train in stadiums outside the Klang Valley, causing inconvenience to the players and coaches.
The hockey fiasco comes on the heels of a questionable National Sports Council (NSC) gymnasium tender process involving the supply and installation of gymnastics equipment at Gymasium 3 of the NSC in Bukit Jalil.
The Malay Mail had reported on July 20 that three companies, including an events management firm, had bid for the contract. Apparently, the products shortlisted by the three companies were of the same brand but were quoted between RM2,796,465 to RM 2,978,990.
Sources had claimed that the job costs less than RM2.4 million.