Pricey bin centre 'not simple to build': NAC
THE National Arts Council (NAC) has defended the high fees paid to consultants of a centralised refuse collection project in the Civic District, saying it was "not a simple bin centre to build".
There were many technical challenges to consider, as well as the need to ensure traffic nearby was smooth and the buildings were conserved, it said on government website Factually, which aims to correct misinformation posted online.
The $410,000 it paid for a study on the project is nearly 80 per cent of the cost of building the bin centre, which stands above the basement of the Asian Civilisations Museum (ACM) outhouse.
The bin centre is for the rubbish of Victoria Theatre and Victoria Concert Hall as well as the nearby ACM and Old Parliament House.
Previously, they each had their own centre.
It drew sharp criticism, particularly online, after the Auditor-General's Office singled out the high consultancy fees in its annual report released last week.
Responding, the NAC acknowledged and accepted that the cost assessment for building the centre should have been more robust.
The council, which comes under the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth, said, in future, it would decide whether consultancy fees were reasonable by looking at the quoted fee as a proportion of the the project's construction cost.
It had not used this method for the bin centre when seeking approval for funds to pay the consultancy fee.
Instead, it compared the quoted fee against fees for other complex projects.
This was the reason it was not clear that the consultancy fee was exceptionally high, said the AGO report.
The report also said NAC had directly engaged the Victoria Theatre and Victoria Concert Hall consultants to provide these additional consultancy services. It did not call for a separate tender.
The NAC, in its reply, also said there could be some misunderstanding about the reasons for building the bin centre.
It was not a stand-alone project but part of the redevelopment for the Civic District, which the NAC noted was "an important cultural and heritage area for Singapore".
The project, it said, was complex for several reasons.
It involved structural and reinforcement works as it was above the ACM basement.
Mechanical and electrical services had to be accounted for, and existing underground services had to be diverted.
The project also had to include ventilation so that foul smells would not escape from the bin centre, which stands next to the ACM offices.
Other considerations included preserving the aesthetics of the historic area and studying the impact of the bin centre on the ACM loading and unloading bay.