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Parliament Q&A

Written Reply by Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, Masagos Zulkifli, to Parliamentary Question on Niche Plaque Replacement on 15 January 2019

Question:

 Mr Dennis Tan Lip Fong: To ask the Minister for the Environment and Water Resources in respect of the supply of 8,600 quartz (instead of marble) niches when the niches were relocated from Mount Vernon Columbarium (a) whether NEA has verified that all contractual requirements have been fulfilled by the contractors during delivery/installation; (b) what punitive actions will be taken against the contractors; and (c) whether the contractors are required to provide refunds or compensation where affected families do not accept a marble replacement.

Reply by Minister Masagos Zulkifli:                

The National Environment Agency (NEA) has relocated about 20,000 niches at Mount Vernon Columbarium Complex (MVC) to make way for the development of Bidadari Estate. As part of the support package for affected families, NEA offered to relocate the urn from MVC to a replacement niche at either Choa Chu Kang or Mandai columbarium, together with a marble plaque. These were offered on a goodwill basis at no cost to the affected families. 

2 NEA’s offer was taken up by families for about 14,500 niches. The relocation of the urns was undertaken by the NEA-appointed contractor and witnessed by NEA officers, together with the respective families. The officers had also checked the plaques before installation. Visual inspections had not shown up differences as quartz plaques look similar to marble ones.

3 When NEA was first alerted to the non-marble plaque material, NEA immediately investigated the matter and sent samples for laboratory tests. NEA found that samples from one batch of plaques were made of quartz, rather than marble. About 8,600 niches were affected.  

4 For these 8,600 niches, the contractor had not delivered the goods in accordance to contractual requirements. NEA takes a serious view of this performance breach and has directed the contractor to replace the quartz with new marble plaques, unless the families choose to retain the existing plaques. The contractor will bear the costs required to make good on what should have been delivered. Pending the completion of the replacement works, NEA has withheld payments to the contractor. NEA will also be claiming against the contractor for any difference in price between the quartz and marble plaques.  Learning from this incident, NEA has incorporated the requirement of laboratory verification for materials in future tenders.  

5 The contractor has reached out to the affected families with the offer of a replacement marble plaque and re-installation at no cost to the family. NEA is closely monitoring the progress of the replacement works and will ensure that the contractor fulfils its contractual obligations.

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