Failure to comply with SOPs in the construction sector

Every day we hear the moans and moans of people overwhelmed by the increase in Covid-19 cases, and we wonder why the number of infections is not decreasing despite being on lockdown for more than ‘a month.

It is heartbreaking to read news and social media posts about the loss of loved ones and the impact of the pandemic on the livelihoods of many.

It angers me that some in society are still treating this pandemic lightly by flouting SOPs or trying to bend the rules by finding loopholes.

Having said that, I would like to share my observations in the real estate development and construction sector – an industry that has been identified as one of the root causes of the emergence of new Covid-19 clusters.

First, the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) which can be found in the MySejahtera mobile app. Point 2 (b) states that only construction companies involved in public infrastructure and critical works are allowed to operate under the current

order of movement control.

There are 8 other criteria, one of which can be found in point 2 (b) (viii) which states that construction works and projects which have housing for workers on site are allowed to operate.

What is happening is that some parties are using these sub-criteria to pass their candidacy, ignoring the main criteria by which only public infrastructure and critical works are allowed to proceed.

It involves professionals such as architects and engineers harassing contractors to ask for permission to operate, adding the names of their staff to get them letters of permission to go to work.

Most of these requests are initially rejected by the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (Miti), but new “brilliant” ideas arise along with other means of bypassing their system. Many succeed after several attempts. The information is then shared with other industry players, who then try their luck.

With hundreds of thousands of requests to process in a short period of time, it is unrealistic to have physical or face-to-face interaction between applicants and approvers and this may be contributing to the problem.

That said, the problem is started by irresponsible parts of the construction and real estate industry who seek to manipulate the system to their advantage.

With resuming work on a project, you have staff who come to the site to work, then come home or visit grocery stores, restaurants, banks, or neighborhood parks. What could potentially happen is that an outbreak that starts on a construction site and that shouldn’t have happened in the first place if the SOPs were followed, then spreads into the community. There are many such construction sites continuing their “illegally approved” operations.

As this ‘uncritical / unrelated to public infrastructure’ construction sector that was not supposed to function continues to function, millions of law-abiding Malaysian citizens are paying the price. The construction industry is huge. If we don’t wage this war as a team, we will never win.

A concerned citizen

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