Design engineers at fault in landslide tragedy, act against negligent engineers


Design engineers at fault in landslide tragedy | The Star Online
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GEORGE TOWN: The State Commission of Inquiry (SCI) tasked with investigating the Tanjung Bungah landslide in October 2017 has found the design engineer of the slope primarily responsible for the incident that claimed 11 lives.

The SCI, in its 116-page report made public, has recommended that the engineer be investigated by the police under Section 304A of the Penal Code for gross negligence.

Besides the engineer, the commission found another design engineer responsible for being “contributorily negligent” for allowing excavation to be carried out without design, engineering calculations and supervision.

Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow said the commission found that the slope failure was a man-made tragedy and entirely preventable if those in charge had taken necessary and proper steps to ensure the stability of the slope and the safety of the workers.

“The landslide did not develop overnight, it was a disaster waiting to happen over a period of time.

“There were ample warnings which were sadly unheeded or inadequately heeded,” Chow said of the report at a press conference at his office in Komtar here yesterday.

Chow said the report, dated July 22 this year, was a result of public hearings conducted over 26 days with testimonies from 28 witnesses.

“The commission also considered voluminous documents, reports, photographs and drawings, as well as the opinions of six expert witnesses.

“The report provides further analysis of the background facts, excerpts of testimonies recorded during the hearings and findings on liability against several parties,” he said.

The commission also found the Occupational Safety and Health Department negligent for failing to take adequate steps to ascertain the extent of the danger posed by the unsafe slope, by not promptly issuing a prohibition notice after its visit to the site on Aug 18, 2017, which was two months before the fatal incident.

Chow said copies of the report would be sent to the police, Attorney General’s Chambers, Board of Engineers Malaysia and other authorities involved.

“The report also contains nine recommendations that the commission hopes will serve as guidelines and prevent such incidents from recurring,” he added.

On Oct 21, 2017, a temporary slope in the construction site of a high-rise apartment block in Tanjung Bungah collapsed while workers were trying to stabilise it. Tonnes of earth crumbled, killing 11 workers.

The full SCI report can be bought at Level Three, Komtar, for RM50 per copy between Sept 3 and 30. For more details, call 04-650 5480.- Source link

Chow: Agencies have to act against negligent engineers

Penang chief minister Chow Kon Yeow

GEORGE TOWN: It is up to the relevant agencies to take action against the consultant engineers who were found negligent, resulting in the Tanjung Bungah landslide tragedy, says Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow.

“It is up to the agencies and the police to take action as recommended by the State Commission of Inquiry (SCI).

“I have also directed the Town and Country Planning Department, Penang Island City Council, Seberang Prai Municipal Council and other related agencies to come up with recommendations to improve hill development.

“It was discussed at the State Planning Committee meeting and I have directed state housing, town and country planning and local government committee chairman Jagdeep Singh Deo to head the committee and come up with the recommendations within a month, ” said Chow at Komtar here yesterday.

It was reported that the SCI tasked with investigating the Tanjung Bungah landslide in October 2017 had found the design engineer of the slope primarily responsible for the incident that claimed 11 lives.

The SCI, in its 116-page report made public, had recommended that the engineer be investigated by the police under Section 304A of the Penal Code for gross negligence.

Besides the engineer, the commission found another design engineer responsible for being “contributorily negligent” for allowing excavation to be carried out without design, engineering calculations and supervision.

Penang Island City Council engineering director A. Rajendran, who was also present at the press conference, said the stop-work order on the project was lifted after the developer completed mitigation works.“However, different engineers have been overseeing the project since work resumed some time ago, ” said Rajendran.

On Oct 21,2017, a temporary slope at the construction site of a high-rise apartment block in Tanjung Bungah collapsed while workers were trying to stabilise it.

Tonnes of earth crumbled, killing 11 workers. – Source link

Read  more:

 

Tanjung Bungah landslide incident entirely preventable, concludes …

Act against engineers for negligence, urges Tanjung Bungah …

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Penang commission moots criminal charges against consultant …

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Anti-corruption crusade in full force in Corporate Malaysia


 

Enough time: Ruslan says there should be adequate time for corporates to implement the guidelines by June 1, 2020.

Will the much-anticipated enforcement of Section 17A of the MACC in less than a year result in a corruption-free business scene?

THE Pakatan Harapan government envisions a corruption-free Malaysia in five years’ time, but the journey towards the ambitious objective will be a bumpy one – especially for Corporate Malaysia.

According to PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Global Economic Crime Survey 2018, about 35% of the Malaysian companies surveyed have suffered as a result of bribery and corruption in their daily operations. This marks a sharp increase from just 19% in 2014.

Speaking with StarBizWeek, Transparency International Malaysia (TIM) president Muhammad Mohan cautions that “corruption is rampant and has worsened in the Malaysian business sector over the last few years”.

Despite the worrying trend in Corporate Malaysia, preventive anti-corruption measures among local companies remain limited.

As at end-May 2019, only 59% of listed companies in the country had an internal anti-corruption policy, according to the Securities Commission (SC).

The good news is, the Pakatan administration has been ramping up its anti-corruption initiatives over the last one year.

About a month after the 14th general election (GE14), the government established the Governance, Integrity and AntiCorruption Centre (GIACC) to monitor and coordinate all activities related to combating graft, integrity and governance.

In January 2019, the National AntiCorruption Plan 2019-2023, which was developed by GIACC, was launched by Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad. The five-year plan has outlined six priority areas and 115 initiatives to achieve zero-tolerance to corruption and bolster good
governance.

On July 18, the SC presented its anti-corruption action plan to the Cabinet Special Committee on Anti-Corruption chaired by Dr Mahathir, with recommendations to prevent corruption, misconduct and fraud.

Section 17A comes into force 

In addition to these efforts, beginning June 1, 2020, Corporate Malaysia will take its next step towards a corruption-free business environment via the enforcement of Section 17A of the MACC Act.

The new provision, which was inserted into the anti-bribery act before the GE14, establishes the principle of corporate liability among businesses. Under Section 17A, companies and their directors could be deemed personally liable if an associated person such as an employee or subcontractor is caught involved in corruption for the benefit of the commercial organisations.

Section 17A covers companies, partnerships and limited liability partnerships operating in Malaysia.

The companies and directors could defend themselves against prosecution if they have implemented “adequate procedures” such as internal guidelines or staff training within the commercial organisations.

However, senior lawyer and former Malaysian Bar president Datuk Lim Chee Wee says the existence of adequate procedures does not preclude a commercial organisation or the directors from being charged or prosecuted.

“That is to say, a company may still be charged or prosecuted for corruption offence under section 17A (1), but the fact that the company has in place adequate anti-corruption procedures may absolve it from any finding of criminal liability by the court,” he says.

“However, Section 17A does not put an undue amount of responsibilities on the management. While the definition of associated person under section 17A (6) appears to be general and extensive, there is a safeguard in section 17A (7) which provides for the need for a holistic assessment of the relationship between the company and the associated person to be conducted before any liability of the associated person can
be imputed on the company,” he says.

With the anti-bribery provision, companies can no longer hide behind third parties such as consultants or subsidiaries. In the past, holding companies and the board of directors could absolve themselves of any blame if there were corrupt practices at the subsidiary levels.

“Now, the directors and companies are accountable for everything. Even consultants who act for companies come under the MACC Act and the employee hiring processes must be accounted for,” says a CEO of a listed
firm.

He adds that the focus should be more on the wide implications of Section 17A, rather than the cost of compliance.

“It is not whether the corporate liability provision is difficult or adds to costs of  Malaysian companies.

It is a question of whether the companies and directors are aware of the wide implications with the act coming into force next year.

“The MACC act together with the beneficial ownership laws gives MACC the
bite to act on corporations, directors and owners. If they want to get you, they can,” he says.If found guilty of an act of corruption under the soon-to-be-enforcedSection 17A, the penalties imposed on a commercial organisation would besevere.A company could be fined not less than 10 times the value of the gratification or RM1mil, whichever is higher, or be subject to imprisonment not exceeding 20 years, or to both.In short, it will not be “business as usual” for Corporate Malaysia come 2020.

Delay in compliance 

While there are only 10 more months before Section 17A is enforced, many businesses in the country have yet to introduce adequate procedures to prevent corruption in their organisations, in line with the “Guidelines on Adequate Procedures”.

On Dec 10, 2018, Dr Mahathir launched the “Guidelines on Adequate Procedures”, which serve as reference points for any anti-corruption policies and controls an organisation may choose to implement towards the goal of having adequate procedures as required under Section 17A.

SC says that even among the listed companies that have an anti-corruption policy, “the majority of these policies contain gaps when compared to the Guidelines on Adequate Procedures”.

TI-M’s Muhammad Mohan hinted that not all government-linked companies (GLCs) will be ready by June 2020 for Section 17A.

“GLCs especially the larger ones are making preparations to handle the corruption risks involved. The problem is many GLCs and non-GLCs have wasted so much time by not implementing or preparing their organisations for this.

“Many businesses are expecting U-turns or extensions to be given,” he says.

Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers president Datuk Soh Thian Lai says the organisation supports the introduction of Section 17A and has undertaken several sessions to educate its members on the implementation of “adequate procedures” as well as the ISO 37001 Anti Bribery Management System.

As the deadline for the enforcement of Section 17A nears, Soh points out that concerns

remain on the readiness and capacity of the small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in ensuring that adequate internal measures have been put in place to potential acts of corruption. specially still lack the know-how lementing such measures. There e greater capacity building in place to assist SMEs,” he says.

However, among major corporations in uch as those related to Nasional and the Employees Fund, the guidelines are being owed, says a CEO of a listed company.

The compliance department has grown bigger, he says.  In an email interview with
StarBizWeek, SC says that it will take steps to mandate companies to establish and
implement anti-corruption measures.

“While there may be additional costs in putting these anti-corruption in place, it is important for comealise that these measures will m to avail themselves of the statutory ddefence provided for under Section 17A (4) of the MACC
Act,” says the commission.

Vulnerable businesses 

Past experiences indicate that compaed with procurement, governracts and the  construction sector ulnerable to corruption and kickbacks.

While government and key industry ve introduced several anti-coreasures such as open tender corrupt practices continue to be prevalent in such sectors.

In fact, between 2013 and 2018, nearly 43% of the total complaints received by MACC were on the procurement sector.

Experts say that the trend is expected to change as businesses in Malaysia fully comply with Section 17A, following its enforcement. The adoption of anti-bribery ISO 37001 standards will also bolster Corporate Malaysia zero-tolerance approach towards corruption.

Facilities management service provider GFM Services Bhd, which is actively involved in government contracts, welcomes the enforcement of
Section 17A.

Group managing director Ruslan Nordin believes the corporate liability provision not only upholds a business’ integrity, but also protects shareholders’ value and preserves profitability of the company.

“We view that there is adequate time for corporates in Malaysia to implement the guidelines by June 1 next year,” he says.

Senior lawyer Lim says that Section 17A imposes a duty on all businesses, its directors and officers to be honest in their internal and external dealings.

“This is to be welcomed, corruption increases the cost of transaction, and with this new provision, it should reduce the cost of business,” he says. UHY Malaysia managing director Steven Chong Hou Nian believes that compliance with Section 17A offers businesses an opportunity to exhibit positive values in their corporate culture.

“I opine that the qualitative gains from Section 17A compliance outweigh the additional costs,” he says.

He was also asked whether Section 17A will be successful in reducing corruption within procurement and tendering for government contracts.

To this, he said that the government has pledged to re-design the entire public procurement system while introduce relevant technologies to facilitate a clean, efficient and transparent procurement regime.

“The effectiveness of what Section 17A seeks to achieve, would naturally be premised upon the ecosystem that the MACC Act would operate within.
“The eventual success of the initiative is anyone’s guess, yet I applaud the nation for boldly taking this step forward. This is indeed a success in its own right,” says Chong.

 

Penang’s LRT project gets conditional approval from Transport Minister


GEORGE TOWN: Waves of excitement swept through Penang when the Transport Minister announced that the Bayan Lepas light rail transit (LRT) has received conditional approval.

It is seen as a move to reduce traffic congestion in the city and create a next wave of growth for the state.

The approved 29.9km Bayan Lepas LRT will bring convenience not only to the local folk but also tourists and investors, said Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers Penang chairman Datuk Dr Ooi Eng Hock.

Ooi, who is positive that the project will spur growth on the island, believes the LRT will bring in another wave of development into the state.

“The LRT will divert traffic congestion. It will attract new investments, make life easier for our workforce.

“I believe it will boost the state’s economy with another wave of growth,” he said yesterday.

Following the Transport Ministry’s conditional approval of the project, Ooi added that it is the first step for a change in landscape and behaviour of transport mode in Penang.

Yesterday, the Transport Ministry gave conditional approval to the Bayan Lepas LRT project.

Transport Minister Anthony Loke in a statement said that after a detailed study of the application by Penang Economic Planning Unit (BPEN) to develop the Bayan Lepas LRT project, approval with 30 conditions for the state to comply was given on Tuesday.

Loke said the conditions included a detailed environmental impact assessment (DEIA) approval including traffic, social and heritage assess­ments.

The state must now exhibit documents on the project for three months, and the final go ahead will only be decided after the public responses are evaluated, said Loke.

“I welcome public participation from the people, NGOs and all stakeholders in this public review.

“The relevant documents are to be exhibited in public places including government offices.

“The state government must also upload a copy of these documents on a website for online viewing.

Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow thanked the Federal Govern­ment and said the state is committed to fulfilling all requirements.

“We will wait for the official letter from Transport Ministry to proceed and initiate public viewing of the documents,” he said.

The RM8.4bil Bayan Lepas LRT together with a monorail, cable cars and water taxis, is part of the state government’s RM46bil Penang Trans­port Master Plan (PTMP).

This LRT will begin at Komtar in the northeast corner of the island and head south through Jelutong, Gelugor, Bayan Lepas and Penang Interna­tional Airport, ending at the Penang South Reclamation (PSR) development.

It is expected to provide a fast route to the airport and will traverse densely populated residential, commercial and industrial areas.

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Parcel rent bills mailing soon


Stratified property owners given till December 31 to settle dues for 2019

Chow (second right) with (from right) Jagdeep Singh, State Land and Mines office director Akmar Omar and State Secretary Datuk Seri Farizan Darus, showing the new bills for the parcel rent in Komtar, Penang.

OWNERS of stratified properties will now have to pay parcel rent directly to their respective district and land offices.

Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow said the billing for parcel rent, replacing quit rent, would be sent out to all parcel owners next month through their respective management corporations.

“Previously, it was paid by the respective management corporations of stratified properties.

“Since the bills will be sent out late, parcel owners are given until end of this year to pay up although the deadline is usually May 31 each year,” he told a press conference at Komtar on Friday.

Chow said the parcel rent came into effect since January this year.

He said the rates for parcel rent would be based on the size of each unit, while quit rent was based on the total plot of land which the building was built on.

“Parcel owners will need to update their addresses with the respective district and land offices when paying their parcel rent this year,” he said, adding that the parcel rent billing for next year will be sent to their addresses.

Citing an example, Chow said the total quit rent collected from a specific stratified property last year was RM28,268.

“The collection in parcel rent for the same property will be lesser at RM24,239, as it will not take into account common areas, unlike for quit rent,” he said.

State housing, town, country plan­­ning and local government committee chairman Jagdeep Singh Deo, who was also present, said the arrears for quit rent has amounted to RM65mil to date.

Parcel owners are advised to update their mailing addresses at the land and district office or online at etanah.penang.gov.my

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Declining performance of Malaysia’s civil service, World Bank report


KUALA LUMPUR: The performance of Malaysia’s civil service has been declining since 2014, according to a World Bank report, which also expressed concerns about the sustainability of the country’s public sector wage bill.

The report, which came about following the visit of World Bank vice-president for East Asia and Pacific Victoria Kwakwa to Malaysia last December during which she met the Prime Minister, also ranked Malaysia lowly in its indicators for accountability, impartiality as well as the transparency and openness of its public service.

The report – which is included in the World Bank’s six-monthly economic monitor on Malaysia – will be formally launched today.

World Bank lead public sector specialist Rajni Bajpai said that while Malaysia was doing better than others in South-East Asia, there was a very “big gap” in the performance of its civil servants with Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries.

She said the report decided to compare Malaysia with the OECD countries as it was hoping to move from a middle-income status country to that of high-income.

“When you compare Malaysia with others in the region, Malaysia has been doing pretty well but we see that the performance has stagnated.

“If you look at the indicator for government effectiveness, Malaysia is still above in the region but in 2018, the performance is below that of between 1991 and 2014.

“If you take the average of that period between 1991 and 2014, it was higher than that in 2018, which means the performance is declining,” she said in an interview.

There were also some indicators in which Malaysia ranked even below the region, said Rajni, adding that this included accountability, impartiality and the openness of its public sector.

“There is a strong perception … that recruitment of the civil service is not fair and neutral (with) Malaysia scoring very poorly on the indicators for impartiality in the government.

“It’s the lowest ranked, even below the region and way below the OECD,” she said, adding that the government in its election manifesto had suggested setting up an Equal Opportunities Commis­sion meant to tackle discriminatory practices in both the public and private sector.

“Malaysia also scores very poorly on the openness indicators. Malaysia is not a very open economy in the sense that data sharing is a very big problem.

“The government does not share of a lot of data, even within its own departments or with the citizens.

“And citizens’ feedback and voices are not factored by the government into the design of programmes,” she said, adding that the report would suggest the setting up of an institutional and legal framework for open data sharing.

Another indicator that Malaysia performed “not very well”, according to Rajni, was in digitisation and technological advances, which the government had not been able to integrate into its system to provide services.

The report, said Rajni, also focused on another critical element in Malaysia’s civil service, in that the recruitment, which was carried out by the Public Services Department, was overcentralised.

Describing Malaysia as one of the “most overcentralised”, she pointed out that in many countries, this function had been devolved to other departments and even state governments.

“Overcentralisation does not allow for the people who actually need the public servants to do certain jobs … because they don’t have the right people or the recruitment takes a very long time,” she said.

OECD countries, said Rajni, had been using a competency framework for the recruitment of their civil service, which defined the kind of roles and skills needed in the public sector, rather than taking in people generally for everything.

Among the indicators that Malaysia performed very well were for the ease of doing business – for which Malaysia is ranked 15th – and the inclusion of women in its civil service.

“Women occupied almost 50% of the civil service although there are some issues with women in higher management,” said Rajni.

Other indicators that were highlighted in the report included political stability, regulatory quality, rule of law and control of corruption.

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Landslide tragedy caused by slope instability, was a Construction mishap, not landslide!


Earth patch: Workers covering the landslide area with canvas to prevent more soil erosion in Tanjung Bungah.

Construction mishap, not landslide

GEORGETOWN: The incident that claimed four lives at a beach resort in Tanjung Bungah was a construction mishap, said Penang Island City Council (MBPP) mayor Yew Tung Seang (pic)

He said that the slope was unstable due to digging activities as the resort’s owner was building a retaining wall without informing the authorities.

“It’s not a landslide. The incident occurred after the retaining wall collapsed within the resort’s premises.

“We need to be informed of any construction activity and make sure that it is done under the supervision of engineers.

“We are monitoring the situation closely before making a decision on whether to stop the resort’s operations,” he said at a press conference after the launching of the Karpal Singh Digital Hub at SK Sungai Gelugor yesterday.

On Tuesday, four foreign workers were buried alive in a freak accident at the construction site in Tanjung Bungah.

It is learnt that the resort owner recently contracted a Myanmar worker to build a retaining wall after finding that the hill separating the resort and Jalan Batu Ferringhi showed signs of erosion.

The contractor hired three other Myanmar nationals to assist him.

Checks found that the retaining wall, which was supposed to be about 5m wide, had yet to be built but there were other retaining walls beside it.

State local government commit­tee chairman Jagdeep Singh Deo said mitigation works along the 50m stretch of Jalan Batu Ferringhi would be completed in three to four weeks’ time.

“Although the incident happened on private land, it has affected the federal road where many heavy vehicles pass by every day.

“It is important to stabilise the road to ensure the safety of road users,” he said.

Meanwhile, Citizens Awareness Chant Group adviser Yan Lee called on the MBPP to reveal its standard operating procedures for investigating illegal earthworks done in the state.

“I hope that the council can share with us how many officers or workers are available to check on such earthworks,” he said.

Source link 

GEORGE TOWN: Soil movement due to slope instability is said to be the cause of the freak landslide that claimed four lives at a beach resort in Batu Ferringhi, says Penang Public Works Department (PWD) director Shahabuddin Mohd Muhayidin.

He said preliminary investi­gations showed that the slope was unstable as a result of digging by a third party.

“The digging at the slope caused soil movement with a whole lot of earth coming loose.

“Right now, we are taking the necessary steps to stop further soil erosion at the slope.

“After this, we will install sheet piles to stabilise the slope,” he told reporters at a press conference in Komtar yesterday.

Following the landslide, Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow had ordered PWD to conduct a thorough study of Jalan Batu Ferringhi to check on conditions of the road and slopes along the 15km stretch.

“If the study finds any of the slopes or roads unsafe, repair works will be carried out following recommendations from the study.

“For now, a 50m-stretch of the road leading to Teluk Bahang has been closed for mitigation work and to ensure the safety of road users.

“The mitigation work is expected to be complete within three to four weeks, and in the meantime, a flagman will be assigned at the road stretch to direct the one-way traffic,” said Chow at the press conference.

He said the state had no information on the status of the Myanmar workers who died in the incident.

“Relevant authorities will need to investigate the landowner and project owner so that appropriate action can be taken.

Chow said they have called on the police and government agencies like the Department of Occupational Safety and Health to investigate the and take action against those responsible.

“From monitoring at the site, we believe the works to build the retaining wall were carried out without professional help.

“It was just action taken by the landowner who wanted to fix a condition on the site. And, due to the way the work was carried out, it caused soil movement and eventually the soil collapsed.”

He said PWD and the Penang Island City Council (MBPP) would continue monitoring the issue.

“In this incident, the landowner should be responsible as he or she is responsible for monitoring the land.

“Although the landowner tried to take the initiative to build the wall, professional help should have been sought to ensure safer and more secure work.”

MBPP mayor Datuk Yew Tung Seang said the council would serve notices to the landowner and other parties concerned under Section 70A of the Street, Drainage and Building Act 1974.

“MBPP is investigating, and will take appropriate action against the parties involved.

“Although we have a team monitoring illegal construction, the construction work on this particular site was not visible to public view.”

Yew advised landowners to apply for permits before embarking on any construction work in future.

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Experts: Human error could have led to landslide

GEORGE TOWN: A landslide which occurred even when there was no rain to trigger it might have been due to many reasons, including human error, says an expert.

Universiti Sains Malaysia geotechnical engineering professor Prof Dr Fauziah Ahmad said the workers may have dug at the toe of the slope while trying to build a retaining wall.

“During the digging process, pressure might have been released from the top of the wall, which could already have had cracks.

Prof Fauziah said traffic vibrations could also trigger pressure and cracks on the wall.

“Once there are cracks, water will seep through over a period of time, and when it reaches the instability between backfill and the wall, the slope will collapse,” she added.

Prof Fauziah was asked to comment on the incident on Tuesday where four foreign workers were buried alive in a landslide at a construction site in Batu Ferringhi.

Universiti Teknologi Malaysia Centre of Tropical Geoengineering director Prof Dr Edy Tonnizam Mohamad said the stability of a slope, among others, depends on its soil properties, slope geometry, volume, effect of gravity and also the pore water pressure.

“A slope could fail if one or a combination of factors passed its equilibrium and factor of safety.

“If the geometry of a slope is not properly designed according to geologic, engineering and climatic factors, a slope failure could occur.

“There have been several cases of landslides even when there was no rain,” he said.

Prof Edy added that to prevent such incidents, monitoring and inspection before and during construction is important.

“Professional supervision is also needed at the construction site.

“During construction, the standard operating procedure should be made clear.

“The construction site should be managed properly and safety procedures adhered to,” he said.

‘Owner built walls on his own’

Earth patch: Workers covering the landslide area with canvas to prevent more soil erosion in Tanjung Bungah. — MUSTAFA AHMAD & ANDY LO/The Star
Earth patch: Workers covering the landslide area with canvas to prevent more soil erosion in Tanjung Bungah. — MUSTAFA AHMAD & ANDY LO/The Star

GEORGE TOWN: The owner of a resort along Jalan Batu Ferringhi may have been building walls on his own to prevent soil erosion for some time before a landslide struck, killing four foreign workers.

Penang Works, Utilities and Flood Mitigation Committee chairman Zairil Khir Johari said there were signs of such efforts but the authori­ties had never been informed.

“It appears to me like he had been doing it on his own, without informing the authorities,” he said.

Attempts to contact the resort owner for comments were futile as of press time.

On Tuesday, four foreign workers were buried alive in a freak landslide at a construction site in Batu Ferringhi at 9.21pm.

George Town OCPD Asst Comm Che Zaimani Che Awang said all four bodies had been recovered.

He added that three of the victims were discovered in a standing position while holding the metal poles for the retention wall while the other was leaning over.

He said the victims did not have any identification papers.

It is learnt that the resort owner had recently contracted a Myanmar worker called Ong to build a retaining wall after finding that the hill separating the resort and Jalan Batu Ferringhi showed signs of erosion.Ong then hired three other Myanmar nationals, to assist him.Checks found that the retaining wall, which was to be about five metres wide, had yet to be built but there were other retaining walls beside it.

The exposed slope has been covered with tarpaulin sheets to prevent further erosion.

Read more:

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Penang landslides & flooding are natural disasters man-made?

Introduction to Slope Stability | Soil Mechanics

https://youtu.be/rlCmaYi2rYk

Pay to win the dubious vanity awards


BBB Tip: Vanity Awards

Allure of vanity awards hard to dismiss

Your organisation may deserve an award but be aware of vanity awards disguised as legitimate prizes.

A vanity award is less of an honour because the recipient essentially has to fork out money for it. An organisation is asked to purchase the award by paying a high entry fee, sponsorship or other charges.

It is a business model that transcends borders and industries with US non-profit organisation Better Business Bureau issuing warnings about such schemes in the United States and Canada since 2008.

Even government bodies have been known to pay for vanity awards.

In 2017, The Star reported the Penang Municipal Council and Seberang Prai Municipal Council had revealed that they might have fallen for a vanity awards scheme by the Europe Business Assembly (EBA) in 2013 and 2014. (See related posts below)

Penang Island City Council mayor Datuk Maimunah Mohd said they won the EBA awards without assessment by any judges after paying a total of €7,800 (RM39,088) in entry fees.

The now retired Penang Island City Council (MBPP) mayor Datuk Patahiyah Ismail was awarded the Best Municipal Manager while the council was given the Best Municipality Award in 2013.

A year later, the Seberang Prai Municipal Council got the Best City award while its then president Datuk Maimunah Mohd Sharif was named the Best Municipal Manager.

Two European NGOs – the Center for Investigative Reporting of Serbia (CINS) and the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) – exposed the EBA titles as a vanity awards scam.

The report states that such organisations sent solicitation letters to companies and government agencies in the world, telling them that they had been nominated for various awards.

“Anyone who replies, shows interest and agrees to pay gets an award. Most of the letters contain the ceremony programme generally held in an attractive European capital, pictures of the trophies and information about costs,” the report added.

In 2011, The Star highlighted the proliferation of dubious awards due to high demand for such prizes.

The report said some organisers were giving out less-than-credible awards and then asking the “winners” to sponsor or buy dinner tables at lavish presentation events.

The asking price for such sponsorships ranged from RM4,000 to RM30,000, with some companies admitting they paid up for fear of business rivals getting the awards instead.

The organisers also banked on these companies’ need for recognition to boost their business. These companies treated such sponsorship as investments.

The Star reported that when demand for such awards increased, the “supply” can be raised simply by creating new categories.

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Having to pay for a ‘win’ 

Legitimacy of money-making awards ceremonies questioned

 

‘Honours’ list: Adeva giving a speech at its awards ceremony in Kuala Lumpur. Screencap from APTTF’s Facebook page.
‘Honours’ list: Adeva giving a speech at its awards ceremony in Kuala Lumpur. Screencap from APTTF’s Facebook page.

Like most other people, leaders in the business world take pride in receiving recognition for their hard work and achievements. They also see value in being considered as among the best. These sentiments have helped spawn a lucrative mini industry built on award ceremonies that are more about earning money than honouring and encouraging excellence.

Businessmen have raised questions over the growing number of award programmes whose organisers demand payments from those who are supposedly nominated for prizes. The charges range from administrative fees to sponsorship.

Entrepreneur Jan Wong said he had been contacted by 10 different award organisers congratulating him on winning their awards but with one big condition.

“I was told that to qualify for the awards, I needed to pay for the nomination, a table (at the awards ceremony), marketing exposure or the trophy ,” said Wong, who was in Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia list in 2017.

“If I don’t want to pay, I won’t win,” he added. He questioned the prestige of such awards.

There are similar concerns about a recent travel industry awards ceremony in Malaysia by a little-known organisation called the Asia Pacific Tourism and Travel Federation (APTTF).

Participants said they had doubts about the Asia Pacific Tourism and Travel Awards after the event turned disorderly. The Tourism Minister did not show up although the organiser said he would. Some winners received the wrong awards, while several others were not given their awards that day.

“The chief executive officer’s explanation as to why they did not present our awards was that they had misplaced a box of trophies in the office,” participant Melissa (not her real name) said.

“When he was closing the event on stage he even asked if he had missed out any awards. But we were too polite to speak up.”Melissa said many award categories had five winners each. There was one category with about 30 winners, she added.

She said the event was supposed to be a prestigious gala dinner but it turned out to be a low-budget conference-style luncheon.

Participants paid RM575 to RM755 per seat or RM4,500 per table to attend the April 11 ceremony in a Kuala Lumpur hotel. There were about 200 award recipients.

In its promotional materials and conversations with participants, the APTTF claimed that Tourism Malaysia and Malaysia Airlines (MAS) had endorsed and supported the awards ceremony.

However, both organisations have denied any such affiliation.

“Malaysia Airlines is not associated, has not endorsed nor has any involvement with the APTTF,” MAS told The Star.

Tourism Malaysia said it is not a member of the federation and that the APTTF Malaysian Chapter is not a recognised travel association.

“The APTTF Malaysian Chapter is not registered with the Registrar of Societies and is not found in the Companies Commission of Malaysia’s MYDATA portal,” said Tourism Malaysia, adding that it had declined the invitation to attend the awards ceremony.

Further checks by The Star revealed that the website photo of the APTTF chairman is a stock image (an image provided by an agency that can be used for a fee).

The website also has the text of a speech by the chairman addressing the award winners. He has a Japanese name that does not show up elsewhere in an Internet search.

According to former APTTF employees, the people behind the Asia Pacific Tourism and Travel Awards had also organised the Asia Lifestyle Tourism Awards (ALTA) through an organisation called Asian Sports Group.

“My job was to call hotels all over South-East Asia to convince them to join the APTTF as a member. The hotels had to pay a fee and an award would be given when they joined,” said Jeff (not his real name).

“We actively name-dropped tourism ministries to convince the hotels and tour operators to sign up,” he said, adding that the organiser also operated under the name ASG Management Group Sdn Bhd

.Sarah (not her real name) said she was tasked to organise ALTA 2018 which was supposed to be held in Shenzhen in September 2018. However, the event was cancelled although participants had purchased tickets to the event.

“The event didn’t happen because the company didn’t exist,” she said.

Thailand-based hotel operator Paisal Panchalad, who is among those affected by the cancellation of ALTA 2018, said the company did not reimburse the US$1,605 (RM6,638) he had paid despite multiple assurances from the CEO.

“CEO Adeva Sangkuni informed us that he would refund all money but he did not do that,” he said, adding that there were many others with the same complaint.

Sarah was not surprised that several winners of the KL awards ceremony last month did not receive their prizes. She said a similar thing happened in ALTA 2017, leading to a big hotel brand in Malaysia boycotting the organiser.

Sarah and Jeff said they suspected something was amiss with the company after discovering that many of the officials listed on the websites were fake.

The former employees claimed that the company did not pay their salaries during the one to two months that they worked there in mid-2018.

Last year, they lodged reports with the Companies Commission of Malaysia, Labour Department and the police against APTTF and ASG Management Group over the companies’ unregistered operations and the unpaid salaries

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Related stories:

APTTF’s CEO claims event received verbal support from ministry

‘Award winners’ feel the burn after falling for prestigious prize scam



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Malaysian Public varsities, companies, GLC execs also recipients of EBA fake awards

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