We thank Mr Tan Soon Hock for his letter (Still no word from contractor on quartz plaques, March 15).
The National Environment Agency (NEA) has relocated about 20,000 niches at Mount Vernon Columbarium Complex to make way for the development of Bidadari estate.
These urns were moved to niches with marble plaques, at either Choa Chu Kang or Mandai columbarium, at no cost to the families.
When NEA was first alerted to the non-marble plaque material, we investigated the matter and sent samples for laboratory tests.
One of three batches of plaques was found to be made of quartz.
As explained in Parliament on March 7, there was no evidence from NEA's investigation to suggest that the contractor had deliberately provided a different material with the intention to cheat.
Our investigation also showed that the affected batches of marble and quartz plaques were comparable in price.
As it may be hard to distinguish between the two materials visually, NEA has, since this experience, incorporated the requirement of laboratory verification for materials in future tenders.
Nonetheless, NEA takes a serious view of the performance breach by the contractor, as the affected plaques were not delivered in accordance to contractual requirements.
NEA has, thus, required the contractor to remedy the breach of contractual requirements by reaching out to the affected families with the offer of a replacement marble plaque and re-installation at no cost to the families.
Pending the completion of the replacement works, NEA has also withheld payments to the contractor.
As a further penalty, the contractor has to also bear additional manpower costs incurred to oversee the plaque-replacement works.
NEA is closely monitoring the progress of the replacement works, which are expected to be completed by June, and will ensure that the contractor fulfils its contractual obligations.
Wong Chiu Ying (Ms)
Director, Facilities Planning & Development
National Environment Agency