Heed Raja Nazrins advice, open tenders in NCER projects

I refer to Dr Raja Nazrin Shah’s speech on ‘Towards a decent social order for all‘.

The Perak Raja Muda’s inspiring speech on the occasion of the late professor Syed Hussein Alatas inaugural lecture on the need for a better quality of governance, for zero tolerance against corrupt practices and for incorruptible leaders has received considerable media coverage. This is not enough. The government and other stakeholders now need to analyse and dissect his speech and see in practical terms how it can be implemented.

I would like to suggest that we can begin the fight against corruption in the Northern Corridor Economic Region (NCER). It is estimated that the government will invest approximately RM60 billion in a wide range of sectors, including infrastructure, manufacturing and agriculture. Now if there is business as usual we can expect a considerable portion of the expenditure – perhaps several billion ringgit or more – to go towards under the table deals.

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This no doubt will be facilitated by unnecessary and complex licencing and red tape requirements, and other similar methods. One major causative factor resulting in massive corruption is also the use of a system of closed tenders, e.g, the RM3.5 billion Penang second bridge was awarded without any tender.

This is the right time for the government to live up to its rhetoric on being serious about eradicating corruption by taking up the Raja Muda’s challenge and by announcing a package of measures and action to ensure that the NCER projects are not tainted by corruption.

Already there is considerable talk amongst the common man in the street that various big NCER projects are being parceled out to certain parties in unacceptable and non-transparent ways. These allegations may be totally unfounded. If there is no truth in them, the authorities should have no fears or misgivings with providing information on each and every single successful and unsuccessful major project bidder in NCER.

In addition, I would like to propose, in line with the spirit of the Raja Muda’s speech that the entire procurement process to be used in NCER the selection of bidders, tendering procedures and the award of contracts should be open to public examination and review.

Finally, there should be a mandatory public declaration of competitors’ names and their bid prices, and ultimately of the successful bidder. This tender procedure is strictly followed by countries in all World Bank financed projects.

A few weeks ago, as soon as Dr Lim Keng Yaik, our minister for energy, water and communications announced the calling of tenders for the multi-billion ringgit project to transfer water from Pahang to Selangor, the share prices of several publicly listed companies shot up as if these companies will definitely secure the contract. This shows that many public investors expect the contract to be awarded without competition and are anticipating this by buying the shares.

This is another danger sign of the cancer of corruption in our system.

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