Monday, December 30, 2013

A silly Christmas/New Year’s present for the silly season

And the recipient is: me!

For those, less informed about the subject, according to Wikipedia: “In Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa, the silly season has come to refer to the Christmas/New Year festive period (which occurs during the summer season in the Southern Hemisphere) on account of the higher than usual number of social engagements where the consumption of alcohol is typical.”

Thanks to the silly season (I guess) bang on Christmas Eve, I received a direct email from Mr Hamish Tyrwhitt, Leighton Holdings’ CEO, where he implies, that the delivery of my (previously sent) message has been prevented due to my email address getting ‘blacklisted’.

So, after accepting messages from me written over various intervals for 13 months– he finally, says, ‘that’s it – no more’;
With the same move he also confirms indirectly, that he had received all of the ones I sent before getting ‘blacklisted’.
(part of the first ones I sent  is copied here, just to give a bit of a taste of topics I wanted for him to look at, for those in the know);

Thank you, Mr Tyrwhitt for clearing this issue up for me!
I can (obviously) no longer write to you directly, but I’m sure, someone else will forward you my thanks.
Have a happy New Year!

Z

From: Zolna Murray
Sent: Monday, November 19, 2012 3:54 PM
To: Riad T. Sadik; mohammed@habtoor.comhamish.tyrwhitt@leighton.com.aupeter.gregg@leighton.com.au
Subject: blowing the whistle, again and again…
Importance: High

Good afternoon gentlemen!
 I’ve been with the company for just over 18 months.
I could have saved the company at least that many times 10 millions of dirhams had my advice been listened to by my superiors.
You may think you’ve seen it all and you can quietly tidy up the mess and close up the company with no damage to yourselves and those that own it.
Or at least no more damage than what has been already assessed.
You are wrong.
 Mafraq will blow up and haunt you for years. Qusahwira will too, as well as ADIB.
Al Bustan is nothing even close to being managed and will cost you hundreds of millions of dirhams to defend.
 I would be pleased to explain my reasons behind the above statements and strategies to recover, given the chance.
Regards,


Zolna Murray


Thursday, December 19, 2013

A simple post, with a simple question: How long can one channel large amounts of operational money into the black hole of HLG until one gets caught out?

Don’t look for the answer to this question in my blog and do not hold your breath for getting it freely from anyone in charge of HLG or its parent companies.
Regardless of total ‘lack of evidence’ out in the ‘open’, I believe that there is money coming in to cover operational costs of this company from ‘elsewhere’ and this ‘fact’ is almost as obvious as that, the greenery would not survive in the UAE without constant water-supply feeding it at ground level.

Why do I care? After all, I’m all but at arm’s length from this company now.
(Thankfully, one might add).
Call it professional duty. Or conscience, if you prefer a softer, though somewhat idealistic term.
Sadly, you may label this continuous interest of mine in the above named topic as a personal ‘obsession’ and that will not be far from the truth either, I’ll admit.

In fact, with Christmas coming, my main wish (apart from the obvious – of reuniting my immediate family in one place) would be for three parties to answer the question from the title, those being:
José Antonio López-Monís (CEO and Managing Director HLG), Hamish Gordon Tyrwhitt (Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer Leighton Holding) AND the current AUDITOR(s) for these two companies;

Can I make a speculative guess, that in the unlikely event of this question getting addressed by the first two gentlemen named  in any public forum any time soon, the response will start with the ‘to my knowledge…’ preamble?
What a perfect combination of three simple words to let one off-the hook of being party to the unsavoury practice of blunt misleading! (of shareholders, for example);
I did not know it, probably never happened.

The auditors on the other hand, may opt for a different tactic and classify these ‘cash injections’ as ‘Miscellaneous Petty cash’ – never a more appropriate use for this term, in my book. Petty, that is.
Anyway, who am I to set out what amount of money (measured in probably millions) can be classified as a bit excessive for ‘petty cash’ spent on  propping up a sinking company as opposed to just a bit of cash-flow-assistance?
You know, to ‘tie us over’ money?

Mr Habtoor, as one of the shareholders of this troubled entity is proving to be a bit savvier than I’ve given him credit to be, in the past;
One lesson he definitely has learned as a successful businessman is that ‘Throwing good money after bad’ is not a good practice – so he is staying very much clear of doing it.
Weak promises he does make, to the partners and the world, just to keep the ‘water supply’ trickling in, with the hope that all the troubled projects HLG are associated with will be completed before ‘the pipes’ run dry or someone cuts them off.

In my humble opinion, that hope of his is a bit too optimistic, but let’s wait for the final curtain to descend onto this little performance, before we make any judgments!

Picture from here:



Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Someone is holding someone else to ransom here and seriously so… and I can still not figure out how the roles are dished out in this tragi-comedy that HLG is….

One friend says, I’ve got it all wrong, the Aussies run the show, no matter what the Spanish say or do;
Another says, nope – the Arabs are in charge and are giving the Aussies the run-around.
A third one warns, the Germans are being too quiet – making for an unlikely calmness to a storm coming.
The forth quietly tells me to but out of the whole thing… it is not worth a thought…

Just as the media following the happenings around HLG (and Leighton Holdings) my friends like to hang a lot of their analyses on the 800+ million dollar loan that the company received from Leightons some time ago – as both the question and answer to all possible future scenarios.

Far from wanting to belittle this ‘tidy little sum’ of money invested in this wobbly company, I find it weird that so many people choose to ignore the forest from the trees (or other way around) and the almost public knowledge that dozens of currently run HLG projects will become major financial liabilities in the future – if not already fighting for bare survival and in a ‘disastrous’ stage.

Today, Mr Al Habtoor ‘awarded’ his latest gem-of-a-project to HLG and was quoted saying:
 “I have confidence in the Habtoor Leighton Group. HLG has built some of the most prominent landmarks in Dubai and the UAE – including Terminal 3 at the Dubai International Airport, the world famous Burj Al Arab and The Officers’ Club in Abu Dhabi.”  (ref see link below)

There are 79 projects listed on HLG’s website, out of those, he selected to mention 3, that were completed with no involvement from the ‘L’ part of the ‘current’ company, most done well before they were even in the picture, one in the early 1990s, some twenty years ago. In fact if those projects were to be mentioned at all, good manners would have dictated credits given to some major (if not vital) JV partners also active on them.
But who am I to give Mr Habtoor lessons on good manners when the poor chap has a virtual gun pointed at his neck. (according to one of the many likely/speculative theories of what really is happening, that I entertain).

And as comic some of these shenanigans have become, I find it hard to treat Mr Habtoor’s words and actions as cleverly manicured PR campaigns, just see them as blunt manipulations of everyone involved.

A ‘class action’ anyone?
Where are all the ‘international trade-exchanges’ these companies are listed on when you really need them for a bit of scrutiny?

Mr Habtoor, if you feel compelled to justify your choice of a contractor for a construction project (which as a private investor you are not obliged to do) why not quote some current projects of HLG instead, for a real, feel-good impact?
Talk to us of present ‘happy clients’, a hospital operator, a local mixed development owner from the royal family, a bank or a national oil company?
What about the dozens of ‘live’ bids that HLG had been involved over the last 6 years that swallowed millions of dollars yet brought in no new projects?
Airports, hospitals, numerous large hotels, entire railways systems, shopping malls, a museum, World islands too?
Why not list those as proofs of confidence to a company that can spend up large on phantom bids and still survive?

Let’s call a spade-a-spade: this is just another ‘buying time’ game – and trust me, with time, I’ll figure out who will win and who will lose in this game in the long run.
Time, I still have. (I think - or hope);



















Tuesday, December 10, 2013

'Balfour Beatty joint venture awarded £121 million contract for the Ministry of Defence!'

….Shouts a news-release from yesterday.
People share it over social media (LinkedIn, for example);
Share it and/or ‘like it’.
People enjoy good news, especially those related to the company they work for.
People despise whingers that constantly complain about the company they work for.
I’m one of those people that do the latter, and on my list of favourite whinging targets is Balfour Beatty.
And I do not even work for that company, which makes the employees of it even more upset about my actions.
So, I get despised, sneered at, mocked and ridiculed, occasionally receive patronising or downright nasty hate-mails.

Yet, in my own disillusioned state of mind, I keep on thinking that my questioning is valid and deserves honest answers or at least a response to each.
For example, I thought it fair and reasonable to ask Andrew Hayward, head of Ethics, Risk and Assurance the following question yesterday:

Dear Andrew,
A couple of weeks have gone by since you last heard from me – you must have felt relieved, that I had finally given up on the doomed little campaign I was trying to instigate – by and large unsuccessfully, and got on with my normal life which I must have had once, otherwise I would have never been employed by a BB subsidiary in the first place.
For now, I reserve the right not to disclose my future plans on this subject to you or others. Regardless, I believe to have the right to ask you to tell me the name and full contact details of the person you are reporting to.
I expect to receive this information within the next 24 hours.
Best regards,
Zolna

I knew the timeframe I nominated was reasonably short, so I sent the same request to another couple of people that would (or at least should have) known the correct answer, in case Andrew took an early Christmas break or was otherwise busy, yet no response came from anyone.

Thankfully, I have a large number of BB-connections in my LinkedIn network so, I’ll address them directly:
Help a brother (sister) out!
Let me know who oversees the work of the Ethics committee of your (Balfour Beatty) company.
(email is zolna.murray@gmail.com and privacy is guaranteed for any info given in confidence);

Realistically speaking, there is almost a zero chance that I will get any meaningful info back following this plea;
On the other hand, writing to all of these people will at least provide me with another little experiment:
In a day-or-two I’ll know how many BB connections will keep me on their own networks having received this request.






Monday, December 9, 2013

Finally, it all makes sense… Sort of. (speculation, truth and fiction on the subject of the HLG affair in the ME)

My latest theory is this: In spite of all my previous predictions, (including yesterday’s post)  Mr Habtoor will walk away from HLG scratch free and leave the tab for Mr Sadik to pick up as the company called HLG turns into custard in the very near future.

And (probably) rightly so.
After all, wasn’t Mr Sadik the naughty boy that conspired with the Leighton-brothers and got out on his own, unchecked, unapproved?
By disregarding old alliances he went into sabotaging the parent company, in spite of the’ whole ball of wax’ Mr Habtoor had done for him over their long association as business partners!

Mr Habtoor gave him everything that a talented and hardworking, yet displaced and disadvantaged Palestinian young engineer could hope for.
A piece of a sweet pie, a citizenship to a country few of his type can hope for, money, luxury, fame.
A business outside of the reach of the jittery construction market, a bite at the hospitality industry, his own hotel.
He even let Mr Sadik be the chairman of the newly formed alliance with the greedy Australians once HLG was born, the only condition was to have his younger boy in the board too, as an apprentice to learn the trade.
The boy needed some hands-on experience beyond collecting and driving expensive cars, this was not a lot to ask for and could have also been easily the ticket back to Mr Habtoor’s heart, had Mr Sadik recognised so and genuinely undertook to mentor the young chap.

Unfortunately, and at the cost of the long lasting friendship of Mr Sadik and the Habtoor chief, the future that the Savage-lead, ‘quasi Leighton team’ had waived before Mr Sadik’s eyes was too hard to ignore, let alone resists, full of glitter, status, privileges and class.
Directorships at various international companies, people that truly needed him for once, and  no-more, around the clock checking of dusty construction sites, cheap coffees, paper cups and needy Pilipino draftsmen and women to tend to.
He got dazzled by it all, enjoyed the bliss. And paid the price. Or will so, in the future.

Far away minefields of diamonds and gold were calling while local construction sites went for months unchecked, down the tube of disastrous delays, defects and cost overruns.
Arrogant, negligent and incompetent Leighton staff led the disenfranchised Pilipino drafting army.

It could have been easily assumed, that Mr Habtoor knew what the end chapter of this fairy-tale was going to be all along – alternatively maybe, he made it up as the story was unfolding and let his once-friend walk in the trap he dug himself.
Regardless of the preambles, the results were similar and brutal:

These days, Mr Habtoor is all but ready to jump ship, abandon the construction-arm of his multiple mega-businesses, once a fundamental part of success, now a shrivelled body part – not-good for anything, something to kick aside with petty – leave to Mr Sadik to salvage – or sink with it.
Either way Mr Habtoor will not be around to see the final chapter.

Too much other stuff to do.



Saturday, December 7, 2013

‘Has he walked away from Leighton? Did the journalist know of them at all?’

Writes my husband in an email to me this morning, with the scanned feature article written on Mr Khalaf  Al Habtoor published in the latest Gulf Business magazine attached.

It is my father’s birthday today (83 and seriously ill) and, we are half a world away from him  – and from each other, technically homeless with two teenage daughters out of school and in someone else’s care…but my husband’s primary interests are in synch with mine.

I bought the same magazine 2 days ago in transit at the airport in Dubai – lured to it by its cover, hopeful to finally find the answer to the question that has bothered me for the last 3 years:
Has the Grand Mr Habtoor fallen into and does he continue to be the a victim of a ‘massive and evil’ manipulation scammed by the Leighton management or is he the shrewd businessmen that he likes to portray, that will indeed come out of this affair unscathed?

Personally, I am still in favour of scenario 1 – to the extent that I can publicly promise to ’eat one of my shoes’ if the second theory turns out to be correct – not that anyone seem to care much about my dietary habits or even what the truth is in this case.
The big boys on the two sides are fighting BIG with their PR machines all fired up – small ‘barking fish’ like me are just a minor nuisance, if anything at all.

It would be a self-contained ‘little’ culturally-charged affair, if the game I’m referring to was purely between Leighton Holdings and Mr Habtoor, one side trying to save face of the Wall King empire under the attack of allegedly deeply set-in, globally spread corruption and the other working on conserving his, when confronted by dozens of large scale building-projects turning rapidly into financial disasters impacting on numerous big name co-patriots.

This is no game of two halves.

For whatever reason, the many others involved and impacted by it are still and ‘by and large’ staying quiet, waiting for the ‘rope’ to swing a bit more decisively onto one side or the other.
For a start, there are many-many big name and themselves very powerful clients of HLG operating in the region that have been sold a ‘lemon’ and are scrambling to get their projects finished and save what is saveable while being fed empty promises by Habtoor’s favourite schmoozers, quite often the quietly humble and understated Mr confidante Riad Tawfik Al Sadik himself.
Then, there are the armies of subcontractors, from relatively small to very large corporations caught up working on mismanaged, negligently and amateurishly run sites, themselves paid late, if ever, intimidated into walking away empty handed, bitter and cheated.
At the bottom of the pile of marginalized are the ‘honest’ employees of the old Habtoor Engineering Enterprise, often dropped by arrogant Leighton-faithful managers after decades of steady and loyal work or the few good western-bred professionals left within the ranks that the Habtoor flavoured HR can no longer stomach because they know too much.

Bizarrely though and for me most amazing is the silence that ‘comes’ from those that are in ‘reality’ the owners of this ‘naughty child’ that HLG has turned into almost immediately after its birth, neither Hochtief, nor ACS appear to have the ability or willingness to put their foot down and sort the mess out before it takes their own share prices down on its way of inevitable self-destruction.

I will not even try to put a number to the people (including ‘everyday mom-and-dad shareholders’) that will be negatively impacted by the domino effect triggered, if the truth of inability of HLG to complete even one project on time to the promised quality and price really comes to surface?

Or when someone financially literate does a proper audit of its books and is game enough to faithfully report on the sorts of moneys that had been spent on chasing projects in the region the company realistically never had the slightest chance to land?
Or count the number of highly paid employees that are still occupying its expensive offices to produce meaningless reports as phantom bids and work overtime to keep the floodgates of disaster from opening?

Because, if markets did work as they are supposed to and publicly listed companies did abide by the rules then the risk of domino effect that will sweep over shareholders big and small, private and institutional that invested in this trio of companies (Leighton, Hochtief , ASC) would be hardly there. They could all sleep easy without the worry of HLG blowing up and taking them down any time soon and I would not need to guess the number of financially aggrieved that will be very large once this company does hit the wall.

As I look at the measuredly cheerful image of the confident Mr Habtoor on the cover of the Gulf Business I can be fooled that all is well and rosy in his empire and this bleak destiny of a company that is so closely associated with his name I am predicting will never happen.

Still, I’m vary of the manicured smile and I cannot agree with my husband’s presumption from the title that Mr Habtoor could, even if wanted to under any circumstance, just walk away from HLG – it is far too late for that.


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

‘Legacy projects’ and some tips for Leighton’s auditors…

Most people that read my writings know that English is not my native language.
Lots of them often compliment me, how they think I have a reasonable command over it.
Still, every time I set out to do any type of research that involves Leighton Holdings or its subsidiaries; my understanding of the English language is put to a major test;

Take, for example this statement from their website:
“CONTINUOUS DISCLOSURE
Continuous disclosure of the Group’s activities is a legal necessity for a publicly-listed company such as Leighton Holdings, and is essential in maintaining shareholder confidence and market trust.”

Are they kidding me? Or is this really serious?
I can scroll through hundreds of pages of reports, media releases and whatnots and still have absolutely no confidence that this is not just a carefully crafted PR blurb set out to manipulate me.

OK, maybe not me, I have too much inside knowledge, but everyone else, the media, present and future shareholders.

Still, even without having 'insider knowledge', it is hard to imagine that anyone will fall unquestionably for these publications that are closer to highly made-up political campaign-boards then serious company reports that one can trust.

The one area that I know a bit more about than the others LH operates in, are the workings of HLG (Habtoor Leighton Group in the Middle East);
So, naturally, I look for anything that is relevant to the performance of this subsidiary as I read their ‘reports’.
In one of the latest official reports the writing is ‘world-class’;
Reads almost like a school report;

Habtoor Leighton Group (HLG)
The Group’s business in the Middle East, HLG, showed some signs of improvement. (1) HLG achieved a break-even result during the first half and recovered funds from UAE legacy projects. (2) The region’s macroeconomic environment has stabilised and a robust pipeline of projects is being pursued. (3)
The decision of a Qatar-based client to call bonds on certain legacy projects delayed HLG from making repayments on Leighton’s outstanding shareholder loans during the period. HLG believes its legal position on the matter is strong and it is working to a resolution. (4)
HLG’s focus continues to be the collection of receivables and ‘IPO-ready 2016’ remains the target. The business is diversifying its sector and geographic base, and it continues to secure new work.

Naturally and unfortunately I have no access to any of the full financial reports of HLG (oh, how I wish I did) to scrutinise them in any detail;
Also, and sadly, for what I learned over the last couple of years of the media (global or local) outlets, it is also unlikely that any of them will any time soon seriously investigate what these guys are up to; (apart from a couple that may yet come up with the goods, wait-and-see);

Still, aren’t there some ‘paid’ auditors employed by these and other listed companies, that have the professional responsibility to question what these companies are doing and publishing on the way?

I really wish they did, but honesty, I’m not holding my breath. And if the current auditors are listed somewhere on Leighton’s website with their contacts, sorry, I did miss them, otherwise I would have given them a bit of free publicity just as I had done for Deloitte & Touche in my post yesterday.
Regardless of my omission, here are a couple of pointers to look into for those auditors, all based on the short paragraph published by LH above and related to the performance of HLG:

1 – really? I worked there for exactly two years; a large group of highly paid professionals was constantly working on a large number of bids that never eventuated into real projects for HLG.
All projects won that I had some insight into (at least 4) were either terribly late, over budget or both;
2 – really? Can these ‘legacy’ project be listed one-by-one? Projects post-merger with Habtoor (i.e. since HLG was born) can technically not be called legacy project, or can they?
3 – really? Would any of the company’s management be prepared to bet personal money on any of the current ‘phantom bids’ eventuating into real projects? Can this ‘robust pipeline’ get quantified?
4 – really? Based on what? A media war on a weaker media player with a much stronger ‘factual’ case in hand?

As I shift my weary eyes from this sad, sick, corrupt industry to the media that is supposed to keep it in check, I can’t help but end up looking for the ‘auditors’ that seem to failing also in what they are supposed to be doing and creaming the process financially yet sailing away unscathed.
They are definitely not very technically savvy if they are prepared to allow their audited parties to carry on like this (or they can be easily bought, God’forbid) and they may feel to be in the right zone by covering their own butts with lots of ‘small print’ at the end of their  reports freeing them of any and all responsibilities from the wrong doings of their clients.

In my mind, - and happy to stand alone holding this view – no small print will free them being a party to something that can be classified confidently as a ‘large scale crime’.

(picture came from a cafe street board)


Monday, November 25, 2013

A forewarning to Balfour Beatty’s auditors…

Creative bookkeeping and dressing up of annual reports to sooth worried investors into a ‘blissful state of contentment’ is a skillset one specialises-for over a lifetime.
A skillset, that is ‘not really my cup of tea’.
I prefer the pathological side of looking at these and other contractual documents and love the process of systematic unpicking of ‘one-liners’ within annual reports to see what exactly lies behind them.

Like, in the case of HLG (Habtoor Leighton Group) a private company owned partially by a public one and Gammon, operated under the guardianship of two listed entities.
Both currently enjoy being in a position of sitting at an arm’s length from the scrutiny of (possibly) rightly zealous representatives of institutional shareholders, thus often lulled into feeling that they are fully the masters of their own destinies.
And they get reckless.

Take Gammon, for example. You can walk the company’s corridors for months without feeling any influence of the major shareholders on how the company should be run, instead experience on your skin first-hand the deeply in-graved powers of decade-long ties between miniature kingdoms of long-term managers and directors.
Not that Gammon is unique in this behaviour.

To be honest, even after a number of decades of direct involvement with the corporate world, I’m not sure if auditors do more than just give their stamp of approval for whatever the management of the said  (audited) company have dreamed up.
When it comes to Gammon, I hardly expect it to be any different either, from what I know about the management and how they operate.
I can, of course hope for a better treatment this time and ask:

Will the auditors question the overheads of the dubious BIM group, bundled up in the 10ns of millions of (HK) dollars?
Will they ask why they hired me at the cost of hundreds of thousands of (HK) dollars, just to drop me after 11 weeks of service?
Will they call in the HR director for questioning? Get him to resign over this case?
Will they understand that on the MTR 1111 job, the contract is such that the ability to claim in the future is extremely limited, no matter what the directors' forecasts say and predicted cash flows show?
Will they question the person that signed that contract?
Or the one that refused to review it and put some basic risk management measures in place even after numerous prompts to do so?
The one that fired me over questioning the entire process?

Unlikely.
Still, let me give the current auditors a tip: do look into this job in a bit more detail!
Interview the project directors, the executive director, the commercial managers and the BIM-director!
Watch them speak, see how they do make up their stories. Ask them about the ability for the company to claim for ‘unforeseable’ issues a year down the track, even two or three.
Ask them if their is a possibility of finding their hands tied in the future when trying to recover for money for extra work done because of their present less-affair approach for the client mandated BIM requirements as well as their total ignorance at the outset of the contract for the same?

Do your job. Dig deep!
Unfortunately, your reward for getting to the bottom of the case may be similar to mine and get dropped.
But you may get dropped regardless.
In which case you may save face. Yours and your company’s. Long term, that may be the better option.

Take this as an honest warning.


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

If the pride and joy of UK construction was caught acting a bit naughty, would the UK media care?

My guess: NO;
Still, let’s give them the benefit of the doubt and put it to a test to see if anyone will investigate;

My story: I was hired and fired by a Balfour Beatty subsidiary in a way that does not comply with their own published values and policies.

BB’s story: Nothing unethical had been done in this case, a conclusion made not based on an indipendent investigation but the opinion of one person;

OK by the UK media?

(most of background info needed is available on my two blogs)



Monday, November 18, 2013

Balfour Beatty must be a very scary place to work at.

No matter how soft-a-tone I take on to address my fellow ex-colleagues with, (second removed) from the large Balfour Beatty family and ask for some information that could hardly be considered confidential or even provocative – a deep silence is all I get.
For a while I thought I had a direct-line into the ‘brotherhood’, an official person, ready to be spoken to through the language of reason.
Today he cut off this perceived life-line :
“Please treat this email as bringing a close to our correspondence.”  wrote Andrew Hayward to me in an email as a response to another message sent to someone else within his company
(Andrew Hayward: Balfour Beatty plc: Head of Ethics, Risk and Assurance;)

I don’t know if Kafka, Kundera or even George Orwell’s writings had ever featured in Mr Hayward’s education but I personally can’t help but see his ‘remarkable arrogance for an appointed judge and jury’ worthy of some of these writers’ protagonists, when he notes in the same message to me:
“I also refer to my earlier email, explaining that, in my opinion, Gammon has acted in accordance with its contractual rights and that no breach of Gammon’s or Balfour Beatty’s Code of Conduct has been credibly alleged. As such, no further investigation is warranted under our whistle-blowing policy or otherwise.”

Of course, we are still quibbling over the Gammon affair. Or I am.
He dismisses the allegation with no interest in the evidence.
Or my side of the evidence, anyway.

This statement of his also nonchalantly draws a ‘fat black line’ over my professional credibility as the person making those allegations – something that I continue to find hard to tolerate.
It would be easier to swallow this idea of being a deceptive tell-tale if I had the assurance of Mr Hayward that those professionals that hired me in the first place (such a lowlife) at a significant expense to the company had been put through the wringer for negligent behaviour themselves and will never place the company into the risk of a person of my ‘calibre’ being appointed, let alone supported aggressively into such un-unfitting position as I had been.

As for one of my allegations, that the mismanagement of a group of directors of one of the projects the subsidiary is involved in has put the parent company under undue risk and will potentially cause high loss of revenue in the future, that according to Mr Hayward ‘has no credibility’, I have written another post on my other blog;
Not as much to ‘clear my name’ but to reignite some dialog on how mandated BIM on mega sized rail projects works (or does not as in this case), partially because the Qatar Metro development is presently getting kicked into action and other large global-BIM projects are scrambling for advice on how to handle some pretty ambitious BIM specs.
This story is definitely about how not to do it…
Check it out:

picture from here

Sunday, November 10, 2013

What a small world! (or a large Balfour Beatty?);

I’ve been kind-of busy lately with some minor ‘shifts in my life’ and failed to keep up with the developments of the UK BIM Government initiative that will be the ‘game changer’ (ref 1) for the global AEC industry, according to many ‘in the know’;
For this post let’s attribute the original idea of the ‘game changer’ to Patrick MacLeamy - Chief Executive Officer of HOK (as quoted in the publication of ref 1).

Today is a bit of an easy day for me, being officially unemployed and uninterested in any serious house cleaning, so I decided to look up how the counting down to the big event in the UK was going?
As with big games in many large cities I lived in, by now I’d be expecting a big countdown clock to have been installed on Trafalgar Square, maybe the last Olympic Games’ one repurposed?
Having no one in London to check this for me, I instead went to Google – looked at the top results on the topic from the past month (ref 2) and bingo!
Got the updates straight ‘from the horse’s mouth’:
“Bentley’s BIM conference: London excelling; Australia needs to catch up”; (ref 3)
Unfortunately, the article is a bit one sided, (after all, the author disclosed to have been the guest of Bentley) – though for a bit of background and credibility the text allocates a large chunk to “David Philp, head of BIM for international construction and consultancy firm Mace…” (ref 4) who is often quoted boldly quantifying the reasons for the UK BIM mandating this ‘no-brainer’…

I got intrigued:
I know this name! Head o BIM at MACE Group? (ref 5) the last I remembered, he was heading the UK Government’s BIM initiative… OK… Anyone can change jobs… or even fulfil multiple roles…good old Private-Public partnership (ref 6) – not much of an arm-length here….But I’m so often told UK is the ‘mothership’ of transparency and democracy…

And then….The biggest surprise of all! (I must have been living under a rock for the last 20 years);
Up till moving to Mace, Mr Philp was Mr BIM for Balfour Beatty! (ref 7) – for 2 decades! Wow!

Is this not the same company that is still failing to provide me ‘with its whistleblowing policy that will protect’ its subsidiary’s employees in case of them voicing genuine concerns about directors behaving negligently?
Maybe I should have asked Mr Philp to intervene for me instead of bothering the ethical committees and whatnots?
Someone of such BIM reputation would in no time confirm my concerns were genuinely in the company’s interest (re MTR for example?);
Sadly, he left BB by the time my troubles started with them.

Promisingly though for me, according to another article (ref 8) “Balfour Beatty chief executive Mike Peasland was appointed as the chair of a new BIM supply chain working group, supporting the government’s BIM task group”.

My LinkedIn search brings up only one Mike Peasland currently employed by BB as an MD (regional) (ref 9) – but either way, as a CEO or an MD, obviously a fellow BIM enthusiast, he should really be in a very good position to speed up the resolution of my case.
I am about to send him a little nudge!

After all, the UK BIM initiative is moving somewhere….and working for someone…
Someone else…(but me)




           

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

What difference does a year make in a hotel’s life? (The nark’s second site visit to an HLG site in Abu Dhabi in as many days….)

Do hotel operators get too bothered if they do not open on time?
Maybe not that much if they part of a big group like Novotel is. (ref 1);
And depending on the original contract with the developer it may suit them quite nicely to open a year-or-two later than planned, who knows, I’m not an expert in running franchise hotels.
I’m more interested in when the Al Bustan-Novotel in Abu Dhabi is going to get really and officially opened from the point of HLG’s (or HEE’s) ability to get to the end of their own contract of constructing the Al Bustan building complex this hotel is residing in.

I will not reveal a big secret if I state that ever since the job started sometime in 2008, the proposed completion date was always a bit fluid for the Al Bustan complex, built by HLG (ref 2) in Abu Dhabi.
My husband was teaching in the neighbouring school in 2010 and it was already known then by the general public that the job was a ‘problematic’ one.

I did work on the site personally for some time later and claim to have gained quite a deep level of intimate knowledge of the project, that surpasses the combined understanding of all of the HLG/HEE Project Directors employed on this job (and there were many) – yet, just to keep the suspense and stay on this side of confidentiality for now, I will reveal none of that.

But as we glide past the construction crew on this brief site visit with my husband today, and I watch those guys that could be putting the finishing touches on this project quite close to my heart I do wonder, how come the HLG’s PR team had not taken the effort to synchronise the numbers on their own website with the hotel’s ones, (ref 3) – and show Projected opening for December 2013, but claim to have finished the project in 2012?

Both companies will be employing creative economics and report-writing to justify to their share-holders the hold-ups of 1-2 or more years, so a reasonable person would expect them to at least be on the same calendar? Wouldn’t you?

Refs:



Monday, November 4, 2013

The unemployable, sightseeing, nark!

Ok, let’s lift the game a little higher!
It is hard to get these big players convinced that I am more than a CAD-dy face (can’t even say, pretty face, as that would be an overstatement) and my claims are no bare bluffing.
That, I know my stuff.
And that eventually, they will ALL get caught up on their own nets of arrogance and deception, let alone corruption.
My sleeves are full of magic cards.
And, eventually, around the end of the game… they will all be revealed.

For now, I am back to Dubai, UAE also covering Abu Dhabi.
Hopelessly unemployable, also extremely overqualified for the industry, while any HR consultancy worth its salt (and with offices numbering at least 2) has black-listed me weeks ago.

So, plenty of time on my hand, I visit the construction sites (at least from the streets) that I was once involved.
The first one, next to the green sea slug- I’m sure that place was run by an outfit rather than Hilton previously (that it is what it says now); - the headquarters for ADIB was supposed to be completed a year ago.
If you like games for the brain, I will post this PP for you (link here: http://www.slideshare.net/zolnamurray/adib-november-2012-on-c) let you work out what actually happened here. The information presented may not be enough to figure it out all, trust me, there will be more, much more. -but if you get the jist of it, you are onto something!

Can hardly wait, to reveal the details.
For a start, let say, captain and first officer left the ship well before the project was completed, a bad sign, as shipping and construction go.

In the meantime ignored and ‘unnoticed’, I spend my days enjoying the late autumn of a beautiful Dubai.
And getting ready for the big fights.

Watch this space!



Saturday, November 2, 2013

A Jodi Picoult kind of a story or Jacqueline Wilson’s if you prefer the accent from that side of the Atlantic!


Have a look at the little pledge below by the mega company Balfour Beatty, a company that has indirectly employed me for a while. Or their ‘a goal’, if you want to be really precise;
We are definitely well within the projected timeframe, so let’s hope it is all but achieved by now, after all, it is almost the end of 2013.
The writing is quite specific, though  I must admit, it does apply to (I quote) ‘the approximately 500,000 people employed by the Balfour Beatty organization, subsidiaries, subcontractors, or partners working anywhere in the world over the course of a year, no serious disabling injuries and no long-term health will occur’.
Now two things stand out when I try to test this 'goal/pledge' against the grievances that my two younger daughters feel they rightly  have against the named company.
For a start, they, themselves were never directly employed by BB so that their lives were ‘ruined’ is strictly speaking still due to their parent’s irresponsible actions (like, one of them going to work for a BB subsidiary) not directly attributable to the BB company (maybe with a bit of legal ‘stretch’);

Also, this timeframe is a bit confusing ‘over the course of a year’ – what does that mean: if one gets quickly disposed off (well within this timeframe of a year, does the pledge not apply at all?);

Anyway, you try to reason with a teenager!
Then try doing this with two of them!
Make them to be girls, just to give the exercise a bit more fun.
Age them 15 and 17!

Meet Ella.
She is 15, sort of cool. Yes, 2 schools and a couple of continents moved-over in a couple of months but still young enough to hope parents will figure out what to do with her in the future.
Old enough to travel to see friends in UK by herself.
That is cool. Also to be given mum’s friends goodwill to take her to concerts to cool her mind off difficult stuff. What a time to be a ‘white girl’!

Then cue Zsuzsie, 17.5 and furious!
Her last year of IB interrupted by a mother’s dream job in Hong Kong.
An art enthusiast, that developed a great rapport with key teachers at the ‘next to last year’ of her diploma-year of her IB programme in  high-school – plays it cool and moves to Hong from Abu Dhabi, ‘sure mum, I’ll do my best, no it’s really OK – I’ll just get on with my last year of IB, I can understand what is going in with your work’
(Have YOU tried changing schools in last year of IB – what about over several continents? -  give it 12 months at least, seriously);
Then…..mum loses job (call it due to ‘whistleblowing, though nor proven, yet serious corruption allegations’ and her daughter ends up in Germany, with mum’s childhood friend, a lovely family, a father that can rival her own in his quirkiness….yet terribly let down by a big corporation, feeling miserable, lonely, with her  future stolen and ruined.)

This is where a good Hollywood writer would give a little bit more of an ‘oomph’ to the teenager script/role in the picture, get her the chance to visit a lawyer and get his support  (Alec Baldwin from ‘My sister’s keeper’ or his ex, Michelle Pfeiffer from  ‘I am Sam)’, both playing pro-bono lawyers acting as legal gods for disadvantaged;
She may still be better off then most of the real disadvantaged of the world bu t a bit of creative writing would get the audience to really feel for the kid.
The hard-faced/soft hearted lawyer would then represent the child and fight for her right to have an ‘off-the-shelf education' (graduate with her peers) despite her mother fighting a major corruption AEC case…and the big company on the side acting really bitchy…




Sunday, October 20, 2013

Mishmish is back in town (and a note to my daughters)

Every move I make between living in big cities around the world seems to claim a non-guilty victim, one – way or other.
When we went spectacularly bust from our first endeavour to reform the construction practices of NZ some 4 years ago, my Father, repatriated to his homeland of Serbia got irrecoverably ill. One may say that could have happened regardless of our need to move away from NZ, he was/is an old man – I am convinced that there was a connection.

Then, the eldest daughter got left behind, with not a lot of family support, a sad little ‘dot of loneliness’ at the end of the world. She successfully picked up the broken pieces in time and is now a strong, confident, independent young lady. I would have chosen for her a slightly slower and less ruthless growing up timeframe.

Not eaten up enough by guilt of putting my family’s future at risk again – and acting as an irresponsible parent to the other 2 daughters, still in their mid-teens, I upped the ante and set out to reform the AEC world at a much bigger scale when I got into messing with the ‘big guys’ like Leighton, HLG, Gammon etc…

So, virtually penniless and treated as criminals (almost) husband and I left briefly Hong Kong two days ago – or not so briefly – the future will tell, after putting the two previously mentioned, future-compromised teenagers in the care of a dear friend and her family at the other end of the world for a ‘limited time’.

Teenage years can be difficult under any circumstances.
When you had the privilege of being constantly brainwashed by overpriced private schools on how important every part of your ‘formal’ education is, I can understand that they may feel hugely let down and ‘given up’ for some silly ideals of their parents.
When Universities, run as big businesses have been attacking them over the last 3 years with manipulative marketing campaigns of ‘making the biggest choices of their lives’ by choosing to apply for one of their institutions – it is hard for me not to fear them feeling like the victims of this latest interlude of our lives.

Trust me girls, things will be fine.
But don’t trust me so much that you are lulled into an extended holiday by the generous hospitality of dear friends. Teenagers should be pushing boundaries; some give pleasure when nudged, some pain, some both; live, make choices and decisions,
Don’t panic, take it easy. But not too easy. 
Read, learn, research. Walk! Socialise, develop tools to cope.
I know you’re not meant to grow up at 15 or 17, not in a white-middle class family.
Tough. It is, what it is. Don’t let yourselves victimised by this situation, make the most out of it.
(learn finally how to make that real Hungarian chicken soup – you have the best resources at hand);

There definitely is one victim of the Gammon scam and me moving back and forth between UAE/HK over the last 5 months.
That is Mishmish, the cat. See, we had him for about 3 years, while living in Abu Dhabi.
We are not really a good-pet family but we did get on with Mishmish OK.
We had to give up on Mishmish when I took on the ‘dream-job’. 

Not sure how does the law of HK look at compensating for the hurt feelings of a pretty average ginger cat, but I will keep this issue in mind when I count my losses.
Unless he was given to a much more caring family in which case there will be one less compensation claim for Gammon to worry.

Unfortunately, we had promised not to ever enquire about his fate once dropped off at the shelter – so maybe Gammon can cross Mishmish off their list of worries.
It will be pretty hard for me to prove that they intentionally caused him a harsher life than he would have had, had they not scammed me into their faux job of the non-desired Head of Innovation.
Thankfully for me, there is plenty of evidence to prove other claims against the same entity.

Still, just to make a gesture to a new life for us all and Mishmish as we were ‘sneaking’ through Hong Kong’s wonderful MTR system to the airport with 8 bags between us two, I chose to take with us a mosaic picture I created of Mishmish some time ago and packaged it in a distinctive HK red/blue stripy bag.
We gifted the picture to a friend that welcomed us to his home in UAE because while Mishmish was still ours, they were good mates, one summer he cat-sat him for weeks.
Life is all about gestures. Good and bad.

Good to be back in the UAE – still ready and eager to work globally.












(This blog has more pictures to accompany it than I usually choose to have, to illustrate to the wider audiences some of the mementoes of Mishmish while living with us, also the picture and G lugging the oversized bag from North Point to Central, Hong Kong – thanks darling!)

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Cheer up! Things can get worse!

So, I cheered up and things got worse. – a sad little catchphrase that Graham and I throw at each other far too often these days. Not that we are in a bad mood or anything,  nothing can cheer one up more than having to pack a household of stuff twice-up in a couple of months.
Wasn’t it a clever move to leave half of the boxes unpacked, and the couch and the fridge with the movers in the storage? We are learning something, after all!

Anyway. Today I was going to write to May Lin Lam, who is Gammon’s company solicitor.
Of course, it would be much more civilised to speak face-to-face to her than communicate through various blogs but I’m in no position to challenge some of the strange ways Hong Kong does its business.
And in spite of her being the company solicitor and the top person one should be supported by when one raises a question of serious concern to the company’s well-being, we had never met in person.

The first time I learned of her existence was when at the company’s induction day, (June the 19th 2013) I was told by Bryant Lee, a very pleasant fellow, part of the HR personnel/army that Gammon keeps to run its operations smoothly, named her as the third / and top level of the safety-net when it comes to company corruption.
As in, when you notice something not quite right, you go first to your immediate supervisor.
If the solution the supervisor offers is not quite to your satisfaction, you take your case to Mr Thomas Ho, the CEO, who by all means is the absolute boss of the company, expect when it comes to tricky subjects;
So, when you feel he is not quite serving the company’s best interests (in your own humble opinion) – then you go and see Ms May and she will make sure that on behalf of the shareholders, things will be investigated properly and you get your sack if the whole story was just a made -up one but also due justice if what you were claiming actually was true.

Unfortunately, for still undisclosed reasons, this company procedure was at least once not properly employed, on the day I was sacked.
On the 19th of August 2013, and a convenient, two month’s anniversary of the previously mentioned induction, if you like to keep a tab of these ‘date’ things.
So, I never met Ms May in person, though poor thing got pretty busy around all the fuss that my unhappiness with being fired ‘unexplained and on spot’ had generated afterwards.

Also, dully understanding her full occupation with the damage control after such a loose cannon got off the rail, I will restrain myself from the question I was going to ask her today, the one that has been bothering me for a while and to do with what constitutes a case of ‘Using a document with intent to defraud’ when it comes to my case and some of the letters her directors have issued close to my dismissal?

Instead, I’ll tell my readers a little story that I remember very often when things go wrong;
And the best of it is, that it is totally based on facts:
It may be a bit of a long story – so relax, get a cup of tea or something else… and listen to the story…

My family of 7 and I lived in a nice house in the woods.
The suburb of Auckland in New Zealand, was indeed called Woodlands park and we had some serious specimens of trees around our property. We also had a bit of a weird house.  It was unusual to start with, over 3 levels, long and skinny, then we made it really kitschy, plastered with mosaics all over the walls, floors, stairs, even ceilings.
Our bedroom was on the top level, third floor if you count the garage level. It was not a bedroom in a proper sense, as it was a 30+ square meter of an open room. We had a library in it, the family TV, one computer station to share, the master bed, and a space to make beautiful creatures out of legos and play-mobiles. (this was the sunniest spot in the house to lounge in the afternoons too); This huge room was also surrounded by the flat roof of the rest of the house and had at least 3 sliding doors opening onto it. Also, this room was built sometimes in the seventies, all walls wood panelled and the carpet, beige, deep, wool shag pile.
Occasionally we left the sliding doors open.
Occasionally ducks walked through the room, in one door, out the other.
One day they did not just walk through, but disturbed by someone, got panicky and left huge piles of duck-shit all over the beige carpet.

I got quite upset. No, I panicked and got all matter of cleaning stuff onto my precious floor-covering.
I scraped, I scrubbed, I washed, I soaked, I applied unnatural amounts of chemicals to the process, with the hope to get my fabulous 70-ties shag pile back to its pure beige.
I laboured over the spots for hours, naturally just making it all worse, with the best hope to achieve of lifting the entire surface a nuance up and blend to what a washed out and highly chemically threated duck-shit contaminated shag pile carpet would look like.

I was truly sad over the incident as I truly cared about that place I called home.

But, after I while I gave up. Left the ugly spots dry up and somewhat merge into the rest of the pristine looking wool. I ignored looking at traces of dirty little islands of my heaven.
….weeks went by….
And one day, behind the couch I found a dried up disk of duck-shit.
And, you know what? It lifted neatly off the beige carpet with no mark to leave.
 Whatsoever.

So, here is a life lesson for you:
Sometimes, you just have to leave the shift to dry.
May Lin Lam, Gammon’s company solicitor, I’ll come back to you.
Later. In time. When things dry a bit, they’re easier to lift.

If you want to see a softer side of me, here are some pictures of this weird kitchy-mosaicy house: