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Malaysia's maintenance culture, falling apart at the seams

From sports stadiums to public restrooms, many of the country's facilities are suffering from a lack of upkeep.

Ahmad Mustakim Zulkifli
3 minute read
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Sunlight pours through the cracks and gaps left by broken panels in the roof of the once mighty Shah Alam stadium.
Sunlight pours through the cracks and gaps left by broken panels in the roof of the once mighty Shah Alam stadium.

For years, Stadium Shah Alam was a household name among football fans who would flock to the massive dome to watch matches between the Red Giants home team and their opponents of the day. 

Inaugurated in 1994, the stadium was the venue of the 1998 Commonwealth Games and hosted a number of other international events as well as athletics meets and concerts. 

Today, though, the iconic stadium in Section 13 is only a broken shell of its former self. 

Even from a distance, the holes in its unique polycarbonate roof left by cracked and shattered panels are obvious. 

It also faces a host of other issues including problems with its electrical wiring. 

According to Selangor Menteri Besar Amirudin Shari, it would take some RM250 million to upgrade the once impressive building, managed by Darul Ehsan Facilities Management Sdn Bhd under Menteri Besar Incorporated. 

But the stadium is far from the only facility in the country suffering from a lack of maintenance and frequent breakdowns. 

Elevators and escalators at public transportation hubs are a prime example. 

Late last month, a disabled woman at the Seremban KTM station had to be carried in by auxiliary police as the elevator was out of order. 

The lift was eventually repaired after the incident went viral on social media. 

Public washrooms and bus stations are also infamous for their lack of maintenance.

For former Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ) member Mak Khuin Weng, part of Malaysia's problem with maintenance is due to the lack of an effective inventory system.

"Last time, I had an agreement with Alam Flora about the cleaning of drains, which according to their contract was to be done twice a month," he recalled. 

"However, it was not done. Although the contract listed out what MBPJ was paying for, the service was ad hoc because even MBPJ itself does not have a master list of all the drains in Petaling Jaya." 

From an industry perspective, facilities management company GFM Services said the design of most of the country's facilities made maintenance a tricky business. 

"Materials, building equipment components, parts and so on in the design specifications are often unsuited to the kind of environment and usage to which the facility is exposed," director Zainal Amir said. 

"Maintenance management experts and practitioners are often not consulted during the design stage of the facility." 

Maintenance management plans could also be improved, Zainal added. 

As things stand, he said, they do not conform to the latest best practices, and often ignore the lifespan of the facility in question.

"Budget allocations are not based on proper benchmarking or well-analysed data," he said. 

"No proper risk management is conducted to determine the solutions to mitigate possible failures in facility operations." 

Mak agreed with Zainal's observation on budgets, saying the government lacks a fundraising culture to keep its infrastructure in good condition. 

He said this was unlike the private sector, which carries out marketing activities and raises its own funds.

"The government only collects money and taxes," he said. 

"It falls into their lap and their headache is deciding how to spend the money that comes in. 

"You might be surprised that they spend only a minimal amount hiring cleaners." 

Zainal meanwhile spoke of inefficiencies in the contractor selection process for public facilities and a general lack of awareness among the people about the importance of maintenance. 

In terms of contractors, he said the tenders issued had poor specifications that were too vague, including in the matter of qualifications. 

"Tenders are also skewed to commercial offers rather than technical capabilities, and are subject to abuse by both the issuers and contractor cartels," he said. 

For him, the most effective way to raise awareness is by educating the public from a young age about the importance of a good maintenance culture.

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