Recently we have seen in our newspapers a procession of corruption cases hauled up to face the courts. These cases have mainly focused on the small fry or ikan bilis: 13 Selangor enforcement officers, a Kedah fire and rescue station chief, 12 Sarawak immigration officers, etc.
However, there have also been 2 major cases. They are the Johor state ex-com member, his son and his special officer; and the suspects involved in the massive Sabah state water department case which resulted in the largest ever confiscation of over RM 100 million in the country’s corruption history by the MACC.
Unless politics intervenes, the public is hoping that justice will also be done in the mother of all corruption scandals involving our 1MBD state fund. The 1MDB case has resulted in regulatory and criminal investigations around the world except in Malaysia where the mother of all cover ups has been taking place.
Although the public may be suffering from an overdose of news on corruption, it is important for the country’s future that the limelight be maintained on these cases as well as on the actions needed to prevent similar cases from happening.
The two most recent cases show how deep the cancer of corruption is embedded in our country especially at the top levels.
Closed Tender System: Root Cause of Grand Corruption
The first concerns the RM750 million so-called education hub in Besut, Trengganu which was begun more than 10 years ago and is still not completed. Graphic photographic evidence shows how unchecked corrupt and negligent practices have reduced this show piece project to a shocking mess. Today the vandalised buildings and facilities – and the tidak apa attitude of the state and federal authorities concerned – are a shameful reminder that even after some have taken their cut, Malaysian politicians and civil servants basically cannot be bothered to even take responsibility when projects are left broken and incomplete.
A similar instance may be taking place with new hospital projects which is costing the taxpayers billions of ringgit.
In the business news headlines this week is the announcement that George Kent (Malaysia) Bhd, a listed company, has secured a RM364.9 million contract from the government to design and build a hospital in Putrajaya.
According to the company chairman, “This fourth hospital award is a testament of our growing reputation in healthcare sector. We strive to deliver this project on time and within budget”.
But what has been happening behind closed doors and the closed tender process seems to provide a different picture.
In an earlier Parliamentary session, opposition lawmakers complained that the RM277.2 million cost for the Tanjung Karang Hospital project developed by George Kent represents a cost of RM1.85 million per bed, which is more than double that of PJ Healthcare Bhd’s KPJ Kuching Specialist Hospital.
Responding to reporters queries on the matter, Subramaniam, the Health Minister, said he would provide an explanation when he has obtained necessary facts with regards to the projects.
There really is no need for a special investigation to analyse why these projects are so costly and ridden with potential for corrupt practices.
From my long experience as a contractor, all contractors love to negotiate to secure any contract. This enables many of them to easily bribe the officers. These bribes are a small fraction of the much higher contract price they can get at the end of the negotiation.
In fact, MACC must look at the process of awarding the Tanjung Karang Hospital to George Kent which cost double the price of similar hospitals completed by KPJ.
MACC must also examine the bank accounts of all the senior officials and politicians (including their family members) involved in such contracts as well as uncover all their assets to ensure that they are really clean.
Abolish the Close Tender System as Part of Election Manifesto
I have been writing for more than 15 years now on the need for reform to our procurement system which is riddled with corruption and with politicians, agents and civil servants receiving massive commissions or kickbacks on contracts.
The first step to reform is to implement an open tender system to check abuses and prevent corruption.
If the open tender system of competitive bidding is not in place, taxpayers will continue to pay for over-priced contracts.
Every year, the federal and state governments lose billions of ringgit through over-pricing and shoddy work.
To bring this issue to the forefront of public attention and to prevent corruption from bleeding the country of scarce resources, I call on both the BN and Pakatan parties to include a specific item to abolish the closed tender system as part of their coming election manifesto.
To me, such an election promise is the acid test of whether the Government (and Opposition) are committed to wiping out the breeding ground of corruption, rent seeking and leakages which is the root cause of our current economic crisis and looming financial bankruptcy.