NAC defends itself with new statement on bin centre saga

By: 永久浪客/Forever Vagabond

Unhappy with public criticism, especially those from the social media, with regard to National Arts Council’s (NAC) decision to pay a consultancy fee of $410,000 for the construction of a bin centre costing at $470,000, NAC issued a new statement on 30 Jul to further defend its decision.

The public criticism came about when AGO found out that NAC had paid a high consultancy fee relative to what it paid for the construction of the bin centre. “There was inadequate assessment on the reasonableness of the exceptionally high consultancy fee, at 87.2 per cent of the cost of construction,” AGO noted.

The Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY), which oversees the NAC, had told AGO that the construction of the bin centre “was more complex and required significantly more design expertise, technical consultancy services and effort to coordinate with multiple parties” and these were the reasons for the fee to be above the norm.

But the AGO noted that these reasons were not cited in the approval paper for the draw down of funds. It also found that NAC had directly engaged consultants without conducting due diligence by first conducting a cost assessment on the reasonableness of the fee. AGO said that NAC failed to use the norm methodology – percentage of the quoted fee over the construction cost of the works – to assess the fee (http://theindependent.sg/would-grace-fu-tell-prof-chan-to-return-410k-back-to-taxpayers).

NAC says bin centre for 3 buildings

In the new statement, NAC tried to explain why a centralised NAC bin centre was needed (https://www.gov.sg/factually/content/why-is-a-centralised-nac-bin-centre-needed). It said that the bin centre was not a standalone project.

“There could be some misunderstanding about the reasons for building the bin centre. It was not a standalone project,” NAC wrote.

It said that the bin centre was part of redevelopment for the Civic District which is “an important cultural and heritage area for Singapore”.

In the past, Victoria Theatre and Victoria Concert Hall, Asian Civilisations Museum (ACM) and Old Parliament House had their own bin centres but with the redevelopment of the District, NAC decided to build a centralised refuse collection centre to serve all 3 buildings.

“This would allow for improved operational processes and enhance the aesthetics of the area,” it said.

NAC further emphasized that the bin centre construction cost was “less than 1% of the development cost” for the Victoria Theatre and Victoria Concert Hall.

NAC reiterates that the bin centre is complex and not simple to build

NAC also defended itself saying that the bin centre was not simple to build. It listed down the challenges in building the bin centre:

a) structural and reinforcement works (above the ACM basement);
b) mechanical and electrical services;
c) diversion of existing underground services;
d) consideration of ventilation to prevent foul smell from escaping from the bin centre;
e) sensitivity to ACM offices which are right next to the bin centre;
f) façade design as the aesthetics of the historic area needed to be preserved;
g) study of traffic flow, e.g., the impact on the ACM unloading/loading bay.

The need for consultancy services

So, because the project was “complex”, NAC said, it required consultancy services.

“The consultancy services included a feasibility study taking into account the various requirements of three separate institutions — ACM, VTVCH and Old Parliament House. The needs of each stakeholder had to be met while providing a holistic solution for the whole precinct. The consultancy services also included technical study, design proposal, design documentation, tender and contract administration, compliance with all regulatory requirements, etc,” it added.

It then went on to exhort the improvements made in the redevelopment of the Civic District.

“The Civic District is the historical birthplace of modern Singapore. With the redevelopment, Singaporeans now enjoy the new improvements to the District. There are more green spaces, pedestrian walkways, waterfront steps and even phone-charging benches,” NAC went on.

“Traffic flow has also improved, and pedestrians can now walk easily between ACM, VTVCH, National Gallery Singapore, Empress Place and Esplanade Park. You can also take a walk along the waterfront plazas in front of the ACM, and at Queen Elizabeth Walk, there are steps that lead to the water’s edge.”

Talking cock?

Nobody would disagree with the need for the redevelopment of the Civic District and the need for consultancy services for any construction projects. It also did not matter if the bin centre is serving 3 or 30 buildings.

The public is just wondering the logic behind spending roughly about the same amount for the consultancy services and constructing the bin centre itself. This was what AGO has highlighted.

AGO highlighted that NAC had failed to use the norm methodology which is using a percentage of the quoted fee over the construction cost, to assess the fee. If we were to use, say, a typical consultancy and design fee of 10% (http://archinect.com/forum/thread/17279/fee-as-a-percentage-of-construction-cost), the consultancy fee would then become $50,000.

Are there no Singaporean consultants willing to take on the design of the bin centre for $50,000?