26 February, 2007

RM800,000 spent, but no sign of sports centre works

Not a blade of grass has been cut, nor a single pile driven for the proposed Malaysian High Performance Sports Training Centre in Brickendonbury in Hertfordshire, UK, but almost RM1 million of public funds has already been spent.

On top of that, the supposed plan for the national under-16 football team to train at the Arsenal Football Club may not materialise.

The bulk of the money has been paid to St. Albans-based architect and town planner, David Lane Associates, which has sent two invoices -- one for RM350,000 and another for RM450,000 -- for "work done" to apparently transform part of the Tun Abdul Razak Research Centre (TARRC) into a mini-sports complex.

The amount does not include the travel expenses and allowances of sports officials who have periodically visited the architect and the site over the past eight months.

This is even before planning application to renovate the centre has been submitted to the East Herts Council.

The professional fees are expected to mount after the submission and when objection hearings take place.

Asked to comment on this, National Sports Council (NSC) director-general Datuk Dr Ramlan Abdul Aziz gave his assurance that the expenditure was within limits and has been accounted for.

"We need to make this happen and all these expenses are necessary," he said.

Ramlan said Malaysian officials involved in the sports centre project include Mej Muhammad Abdul Rani from the NSC, lawyer Phillip Chan who is a member of NSC's management board and Muralee Menon, former chief executive officer of the failed Paya Indah Wetlands project, who is an adviser to the Cabinet Committee on Sports Development.

Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak, who chairs the committee, announced recently that the centre would be completed by April, and that the national under-16 football team would be the first "beneficiaries" of the centre.

However, Arsenal have said that they have no knowledge of the club being involved with the training programme.

An Arsenal spokeswoman on Thursday told theSun in a telephone interview that the club was totally in the dark over training the Malaysian team.

"We are not involved in any project to train any team from Malaysia," she said.

The centre has been in the spotlight because of the RM490 million price tag to transform the TARRC into a training centre for Malaysian athletes to acclimatise themselves for competition in Europe.

Following public outcry over the high cost and reservations from British authorities over developing the historical TARRC (which sits on a green belt), Najib announced two weeks ago a scaled-down project worth RM69 million to refurbish the existing facilities at the TARRC.

( R. Nadeswaran and Terence Fernandez, Sun2surf )


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