Fri, 14 Mar 2003

Questions surround school renovations

Multa Fidrus, The Jakarta Post, Tangerang

Local officials have allegedly marked up the cost of the projects to renovate and build school buildings here by as much as 100 percent.

The Tangerang municipal administration has allocated Rp 37 billion from its 2003 budget to rebuild or renovate a total of 71 decrepit schools spread across 13 districts in the municipality.

A building contractor, however, estimated that the projects would cost less than half of the allocated fund.

Bambang Sumitro, director of PT Bestindo Sakura, a local building contractor, told The Jakarta Post that the maximum cost required to build a square meter of a school building in Tangerang is only Rp 750,000.

"Of course, such a maximum cost is required to construct a new building with the highest quality of materials. But contractors usually use middle of the range quality for schools and that would mean only Rp 500,000 for every square meter," he said.

The fund allocated to rebuild junior high school SLTPN 1 is more than Rp 465 million. It measures 351 square meters, meaning that each square meter will cost over Rp 1.3 million, a markup of nearly 3 times the cost for an average school building.

Under the calculation made by Bambang, Rp 263 million would be required to build the school with high quality materials, while a building using standard quality materials would require Rp 175.5 million.

Another indication of irregularities is seen in the Rp 737 million allocated to rebuild the 558-square-meter building of elementary school SDN 5 Pasar Baru.

The real cost of the project with high quality materials is only Rp 418.5 million, while the cost with standard quality materials would be Rp 279 million.

It is no secret that most state school buildings are built with low-quality materials. Many of them are now in poor condition because of that. Part of the roof and walls of at least one elementary school here collapsed recently.

Chief of the municipal education agency Harry Mulya Zain told the Post that his agency just collected data on damaged school buildings and then submitted that data to the planning agency, which later conducted surveys at schools and totaled up the costs required.

An official at the municipal planning agency, Iid Mahidin, denied any alleged irregularities in the projects.

"We need a lot of money due to the increasing prices of building materials," he said.

This year, there are 62 elementary schools, seven junior high schools, one high school which will be renovated or reconstructed.

The projects are scheduled to start this month.

None of principals of the schools, however, were informed about the renovation funds provided for their respective school.

"As of today, I don't know how much the administration had provided to renovate this school building," Yuyun Wahyuningsih, principal of elementary school SDN 2 told the Post.

Both Yuyun and Aryo, principal of elementary school SDN Cikokol 1, said that they were just told by the municipal planning agency officials who visited to take pictures last month, that their school buildings would be renovated in March.

"It is March now, but there is no sign of any work being done here. When it rains, I always ask the teachers and students to leave their classrooms because I am afraid that the school roof will collapse and crush them to death," Yuyun explained of the decrepit condition at his school.