“First of all,” he said, “recent advertisements for The Airport Mall have stated that there are only174 units for sale. In the plans, there are 188 units. That is nearly three million dollars worth that seems to have vanished! What has happened to the other 14 units? It has also been brought to my attention by some of my clients that TAIB have been trying very hard to get them to sell their units to TAIB for the price that they paid for them. But TAIB’s marketers are now selling those units for a much higher price. Some of the clients feel that they have been placed under undue pressure to release their units to TAIB for less than they are worth today.”
Mr Wong has, (through his lawyers), requested a copy of the floor plans for The Airport Mall from TAIB more than once, but they have still not received a copy. Mr Wong wants to know how a building that would have cost him twelve million dollars to complete has now cost more than double that amount. In addition, why a building projected to finish in six months by TAIB’s own appointed engineers has taken years to finish?
“In December 2005, the banks engineer stated that it could be completed by April 2006. That is why I agreed to let TAIB finish the project,” said Mr Wong.
“I am also concerned about how a construction company was selected to complete the project,” he added. “It is normal practice for a contract for a project of this size only to be awarded after a public tender process had been held. This is to ensure transparency and honesty, as well as to make certain that the cost of completion is within reasonable limits. As far as I know, for some reason, this did not happen with The Airport Mall. I want to know why and how this contract was awarded, who was involved in the decision making, and if everything was done in a legal, proper and transparent manner?”
Of particular concern to him are recent press reports that TAIB decided to upgrade materials and to spend a lot more money on a project that was designed to create a low cost shopping mall. Mr Wong said, “I would like to know why I was not consulted about this, who authorised all this extra expenditure, and again I would like to know how all this extra cash was disbursed. It is important to know where all these millions went and that it was all properly handled and accounted for.”
He went on, “The idea behind The Airport Mall was to provide a shopping mall location for the same cost as a shophouse. We recognised that there was an over-supply of shophouses in Brunei and we wanted to make The Airport Mall a low cost shopping mall to compete with the shophouse. Brunei’s shopkeepers pay very high rents considering Brunei’s small population and The Airport Mall was designed to offer them an alternative to high rent shophouses. TAIB do not seem to understand this. It is matter of dispute that they had any right to spend huge amounts of extra money for no apparent benefit. In fact, I appear to have fewer units now than when we started! The number of units in The Airport Mall seems to have shrunk, and if so millions more dollars may have been lost!” Mr Wong said.
There are many questions to be asked and answered about the strange case of The Airport Mall. It now seems more and more likely that the only place that they will be asked and answered is in a court of law.