Monday, April 05, 2010

Sardine vs submarine: MP torpedoes RM6b army rations deal

The Defence Ministry has awarded a RM6.47 billion contract to a local company to supply the army with fresh rations, a move which DAP MP Tony Pua said raises more questions than answers.

For this price, he pointed that the government could have purchased four submarines.

Awarded to Syarikat Era Frozen Sdn Bhd, this is the largest of government contracts since June 2009, according to the government's newly-setup 'MyProcurement' portal.

"More curiously, the huge contract was for the supply of 'rangsum segar' (fresh rations) which could have bought the ministry four more submarines

"While the value of the contract for food items would certainly raise eyebrows, I'd like to believe that there are some decimal point errors involved," Pua told reporters in Parliament.

Furthermore, the Petaling Jaya Utara MP said the website contained at least 38 awards amounting to RM182 million to 'anonymous' companies, where no company name or number were provided.

"The question is how many errors are there in the data? Without accurate and credible information, the MyProcurement portal will be of little use to the public," he said.

Pua also complained that the portal failed to provide basic useful information such as the dates of tenders, awards and the number of participants.

Across the causeway, he said Singapore's e-procurement portal publishes relevant information and details on tender requests with attachments, a schedule of all competitive bids and details of the successful bid.

"We hope that the government will keep its promise of greater transparency and use the Singapore's GeBiz portal as a yardstick to measure our own achievements," he said.

'Less-than-desired' development

Pua was also disappointed with Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak for saying that details on contracts negotiated directly will not be published because it was “limited, and a security-related exercise”.

According to the opposition MP, the biggest problem in the government's procurement system is that these contracts are often awarded via “patronage to rent-seekers”.

"...resulting in not only wastage and corruption, but also substandard and even failed projects," he said, citing the trouble surrounding the Shah Alam Hospital project.

He said the original budget for the project was RM300 million and it was to be awarded via open tender, but it was later awarded via direct negotiations for a much higher sum, RM482 million.

The “less-than-desired” development of the portal, Pua said, does not gel with Najib's New Economic Model, which urged for zero tolerance towards rent seeking and patronage.

He added that it also runs contrary to the Government Transformation Plan (GTP) Roadmap, which called for all procurement contracts to be disclosed publicly, without exceptions.

"Therefore, Najib's response towards publishing information of contracts which have been awarded without any tenders that they will not be made publicly available is most disappointing.

"...And this raises strong doubts as to whether he has the political will to carry out the necessary reforms to wipe out rent-seeking and patronage which is so entrenched in our government procurement system," he said.

by FMT

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