THE Centre to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4) refers to the revelation made by Finance Minister Tengku Zafrul Abdul Aziz in Dewan Rakyat that the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government had awarded 101 projects via direct negotiations worth RM6.61 billion in the 22 month it was in power.
Former finance minister Lim Guan Eng retorted that the figure quoted by Zafrul is a mere 1.4% of the total government procurement worth RM447 billion during PH’s 22-month tenure.
While there are established norms where an open tender may not be suitable such as when in emergency situations and matters pertaining to national security, we remain deeply concerned that these exceptions pose a high risk where projects approved under special circumstances are easily open to abuse to benefit government cronies with kickbacks or bribes.
We opine that Zafrul’s expose in parliament was but a half-baked exercise, and urge for the highest transparency in revealing further details of the 101 projects that were awarded via direct negotiations, the ministry and contractors involved and the reasons the contract was not awarded via an open tender.
In a push for further accountability, we urge the finance minister to reveal the projects that have been offered through direct negotiations since the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government came into power.
Transparency of the current administration is crucial as the country battles a pandemic and a weak economy.
We further call for a through and independent audit on the 101 projects.
The audit should cover every aspect including costing, the contractors involved, the persons that made the decision to award the contract, the criteria involved in choosing the contractor, services or product, the project delivery timeline and status and relevancy of applying the waiver for open tender to the said projects.
It is imperative that these details be made public.
In times such as this Covid-19 emergency, there appears much room for abuse of power and misappropriation of funds to take place under the cover of emergency reliefs, projects and aid.
Zafrul must show his professional mettle and meet this call with high urgency.
It bears reminding that the National Anti-Corruption Plan had placed procurement as the most primary area where corruption thrives, amounting to 42.8% of complaints received by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission over the years.
As such, efforts to draft a public procurement law, which began under the previous administration must continue to ensure legislative power to prevent abuse of power.
Malaysians must know how their tax monies are being spent. – August 26, 2020.
* Released by the Centre to Combat Corruption and Cronyism.
* This is the opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insight.