• Vol 9, No 8 (2018)
  • Industrial Engineering

Project Delays in the Malaysian Public Sector: Causes, Pathogens and the Supply Chain Management Approach

Salman Riazi Mehdi Riazi, Mohd Nasrun Mohd Nawi

Cite this article as:
Riazi, S.R.M., Nawi, M.N.M. 2018. Project Delays in the Malaysian Public Sector: Causes, Pathogens and the Supply Chain Management Approach. International Journal of Technology. Volume 9(8), pp. 1668-1680
Salman Riazi Mehdi Riazi School of Housing, Building, and Planning, Universiti Sains Malaysia, 11800 USM, Penang, Malaysia
Mohd Nasrun Mohd Nawi School of Technology Management and Logistics, University Utara Malaysia, 06010 Sintok, Kedah, Malaysia
Email to Corresponding Author


The inability to complete a project before its deadline has been a severe dilemma in Malaysian public sector projects. Despite initiatives introduced by the government to improve performance, few positive outcomes have been achieved due to inappropriate implementation and a lack of contemporary approaches. Past methods in delay studies have also fallen short in identifying the underlying causes of delays; thus, delay has remained an incessant phenomenon. Thus, this study was conducted in an attempt to shed light on the current delay scenario, taking the “pathogen” approach in identifying the very root of the causes of delay in an effort to propose a way forward for its mitigation via a contemporary approach known as Supply Chain Management (SCM). The research design that was adopted involved three stages. The first stage was an identification of factors that cause delay, whereby six industry experts with a minimum of 20 years of experience were interviewed to gain their insight on this matter. Then, the factors were grouped into pathogens and pathogen sub-categories using a concept taken from other prominent research that took a similar research approach. The third and final stage involved matching beneficial SCM tools that were carefully selected from a literature review that had the potential to overcome each of the delay pathogens and pathogen sub-categories. The conceptual framework, as concluded by this research, provides a thorough overview of the delay factors, pathogens, and pathogen sub-categories, as well as the available tools via SCM that could be used to overcome these issues. It is anticipated that this framework will lead to better time management in future Malaysian public sector construction projects.

Delay; Malaysia; Pathogen; Public sector; Supply chain management (SCM)


Success is undoubtedly the main objective of any business, including the construction sector. While success may be perceived differently depending on priorities, properly meeting time targets is generally accepted as an important indication of whether a job has been well-executed (e.g., Chan & Chan, 2004). This face is evident in the context of construction projects, as time is regarded as the essence of each contract; thus, failure to complete a project on time can lead to numerous adverse effects. These effects may include extra costs due to increased overhead, loss of opportunity costs as capitals get trapped in unfinished work, and loss of revenue—especially if the project is commercial. While public sector projects may not be concerned with profitability aspects, delays can still lead to disturbing effects, such as tarnished reputations, failure to provide public amenities on time, and the government losing the public’s trust.

In Malaysia, the construction industry is very important for the economy; however, poor time adherence often leads to major setbacks in this sense, especially in public sector projects. The ability of public sector projects to be completed on time has been very poor; it began deteriorating perhaps in the year 2000, in reference to a combination of findings by Abd Karim (2008), Joshi (2009), and Jatarona et al. (2016). While limited efforts have been made to gain insight into their incidence (e.g., Othman et al., 2006; Shehu et al., 2015), many past studies were ineffective in the sense that the underlying reasons were not identified (AlSehaimi et al., 2012). This fact motivated this paper to focus its delay studies on the “Pathogen” approach, which was described by Busby and Hughes (2004) as the underlying conditions concealed within a system that are unidentifiable as long as problems as a result of these conditions have yet to occur (Busby & Hughes, 2004).

The main objective of this paper is to propose a conceptual supply chain management (SCM) framework in order to reduce the number and extent of delays in Malaysian public sector projects. With respect to the old-fashioned local construction industry (see Zaini, 2000; Nawi et al., 2010; Abd Shukor et al., 2011) that lacked contemporary approaches (e.g., Hamid & Kamar, 2010) and the fact that SCM has been regarded by many researchers as the way forward for the industry (e.g., Egan, 1998; Love et al., 2004), this paper aims to develop a final framework by matching distinctive delay pathogens and pathogen sub-categories that are grouped using the same concept as Busby and Hughes (2004), with the SCM tools identified in the literature review as beneficial for overcoming each pathogen and pathogen sub-category. It is anticipated that this framework could provide a holistic guideline for delay mitigation via SCM efforts. 


While tremendous efforts have been made to combat the issue, construction project delay remains a recurrent scenario worldwide, including in Malaysia. Thus, it continues to be an important topic of research. In Malaysia, public sector project performance (i.e. timely completion) studies have been followed up with numerous initiatives due to the multiplier effect that the industry has on the growth of other sectors within the country; however, limited results have been achieved due to the domination of traditional practices within project implementation. Realizing the need to change and adopt contemporary approaches (i.e. SCM), Malaysia has followed suit in many calls for improvement that have been made worldwide. SCM has been suggested by many studies as the way forward and, with its proven success in past implementation, provides optimism from which Malaysia could also benefit. This paper used the industry’s “expert opinions” as the approach to obtain an overview of real-world scenarios regarding the causes of delay in Malaysian public sector projects. These scenarios were then categorized into pathogens and pathogen sub-categories before a conceptual framework was proposed by matching suitable SCM tools in order to alleviate such pathogens. The final framework (please refer to Table 2) is anticipated to provide a holistic guideline for delay mitigation via SCM efforts for the supply chains involved in Malaysia’s public sector projects. The detailed categorization and matching of tools can enable problems to be solved directly at their roots by utilizing the specific tools that are aimed to do such work.


The authors would like to thank the Universiti Sains Malaysia Short-term Grant (Grant Number 304/PPBGN/6313279) for supporting this research.


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