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Funding shortage sends army housing into spiral of disrepair

 

KUALA LUMPUR (July 15): Budget constraints are causing over a fifth of the Rumah Keluarga Angkatan Tentera (RKAT) homes to be unfit for occupation, forcing thousands of armed forces personnel to seek pricier homes elsewhere for their families, according to an audit finding.

As of Dec 2018, 12,261 (22.5%) of existing 54,497 RKAT units in 100 locations nationwide are unfit for occupation either due to damages, lack of maintenance, or safety reasons. Another 2,212 had been renovated for other purposes.

That leaves only 40,024 or 73.4% RKAT units occupied, noted the Auditor-General 2018 Report Series 1, released today.

“In the audit’s opinion, lack of approved funding compared to the amount applied for maintenance of RKAT had prevented planned maintenance works from being fully realised,” the audit finding said.

As a snapshot, corrective repairs were only approved for 2,447 out of 8,724 units scheduled for such works or 28%, for RKAT units under the Malaysian Army, between 2016 and 2018.

During that period, the Malaysian Army had requested RM430.3 million to undertake the works but only received 15.8% of that sum, namely RM68.23 million.

In a response dated April 23, 2019, the Ministry of Defence acknowledged the issue of insufficient funding which is a hurdle in implementing repairs for all complaints of damages.

“The ministry also acknowledges that the percentage of repairs that could be implemented declines from year to year, because the allocated budget decreases every year for the Malaysian Army,” the ministry added.

The number of units unfit for occupation has left 4,316 applicants still waiting for their respective units. That is 22.8% of the 18,952 currently serving personnel, who are either staying in their own homes, renting or occupying government quarters.

Assuming a housing allowance of RM300 a month and a current rental rate of RM800 monthly in Kuala Lumpur, the audit finds that the personnel affected has to bear a rental difference of approximately RM500 a month or RM6,000 a year.

“In addition, the welfare of the personnel and their families are not guaranteed and in the case of emergency, deployment cannot be efficiently undertaken due to personnel renting outside the camp,” the audit report said.

RKAT is a housing programme to provide accommodations for serving personnel of the Malaysian Armed Forces with families. Its underlying objective is to promote a constant state of readiness amongst the serving personnel for immediate deployment, if the need arises.

Those eligible for RKAT houses include married personnel, widowers and single mothers with dependencies. Single personnel are housed in camp barracks.

Between 2015 and Dec 2018, the Ministry of Defence had received a total sum of RM258.45 million for RKAT maintenance works.

In comparison, the amount needed to carry out all necessary reparative works in that period, worked out to RM1.043 billion.

“In addition, not all RKAT housing locations under the responsibility of Bahagian Perkhidmatan Kejuruteraan Pertahanan (BPKP), received a maintenance allocation, which means defects could not be repaired, despite there being regular contractors appointed,” the audit said.

The audit report highlighted that maintenance works are more focused on addressing complaints due to insufficient funds, meaning damaged units from prior years are left unrepaired, thus affecting the damaged buildings' lifespan.

The ministry is also struggling to keep up with complaints. Between 2015 and June 2018, it received some 26,487 complaints of damages, but were only able to resolve 17,014 or 64.2%.

Repairs for the remaining 9,473 (35.8%) were unable to be carried out, the audit found.

In some cases, the approval for applications requesting emergency repair works were also late, with delays ranging from between two days up to 220 days, which the audit called “unsatisfactory”.

“The delay in taking action could put lives at risk, undermine the safety of the camp and personnel, or lead to continuous wastage,” the audit report said.

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