Saturday, April 10, 2010

MyProcurement: Not At All Transparent

I had earlier issued a statement questioning the data integrity in the newly launched “MyProcurement Portal” which lists all contracts awarded by the various Ministries and government departments.

I highlighted the fact that there were 38 awards amounting to RM182 million which did not have company names and/or numbers as well as a dubious award of RM6.47 billion for food supplies to the army.

The Chief Executive Officer of PEMANDU, Datuk Seri Idris Jala who's in-charge of the government's transformation programme had on national radio BFM89.9 insisted that all data in the portal are accurate despite being questioned repeatedly by the interviewer.

However, he was proven wrong almost immediately when the Ministry of Defence corrected the contract value amount by 3 decimal places, from RM6.47 billion to RM6.47 million, as updated on the MyProcurement portal.

If it had been the only mistake in the portal, it may be excused. However, it will most certainly not be anywhere near the last.

There is another contract worth RM77,920,599.20 which has already been highlighted in The Malaysian Insider, “cadangan membina dan menyiapkan asrama untuk 100 lelaki dan 100 perempuan di smk kuala jenederis, hulu tetengganu, terengganu” which was awarded to Rafa Sepakat Sdn Bhd. In Hulu Terengganu, it will actually cheaper to buy a RM380,000 luxury bungalow for each of the 200 students!

Is this another data error? It is certainly not the responsibility of a Member of Parliament to scrutinise every contract to second-guess if the contract amount is accurate or contains “data error” or over-priced. It is the responsibility of the project officials to ensure that every piece of information in the MyProcurement portal, a milestone proudly launched by the Prime Minister himself be completely credible with its information. If a cursory scan of the portal has immediately thrown up so many errors, surely there are plenty more hidden within the system.

Not only is the data inaccurate, and information lacking – no details of tender specifications, dates of tender and award, quantities, number of competitive bids and other relevant details, the contracts published in the system is not even complete!

1.Only 16 ministries out of 26 ministries have any contracts posted on the portal. 10 Ministries – Transport, 'Energy, Green Technology & Water', Plantation Industries & Commodities, Natural Resources & Environment, Agriculture, Domestic Trade & Consumer Affairs, Housing & Local Government, 'Women, Family & Community Development' and Foreign Affairs have not made public any contracts which have been awarded by the Ministry.

2.But even for the Ministry's with published contracts, they are by no means complete!

a)The Ministry of Rural and Regional Development has a budget of RM2.64 billion for purchase of goods, services and assets in 2009, but only RM15.3 million has been disclosed for expenditure since June 2009. That accounts for less than 0.6% of all purchases.

b)The Prime Minister's Department itself has a budget of RM11.2 billion for purchases of goods, services and assets in 2009, but the total value of contracts disclosed since 2009 is only RM174.8 million, or 1.5% of the total expenditure.

c)Possibly only the Ministry of Works could be commended to have made any effort towards disclosing contract details for the entire budget for purchasing goods, services and assets for 2009 was RM3.31 billion, while the total value of contracts published was RM3.78 billion. However, given the the published figures were only for contracts awarded from June 2009, it raises the obvious question as to whether the are more “decimal place” errors in the system.

I've even been made to understand that certain Ministries have objected vehemently to publishing information on certain types of contracts, for reasons possibly best explained by the Prime Minister himself.

By not being transparent and not publishing all contracts which have been awarded by the Government, it will be impossible for Malaysians to determine if the Government has been fair and judicious in the award of its contracts. On the other hand, the failure to publish complete details of all contracts will only lead to increased suspicion that the Government has plenty to hide, and has no political will to wipe out wastages, inefficiencies and corruption associated with rent-seeking and patronage.

If by publishing such inaccurate, insufficient and incomplete amount of contracts and data, the Government hopes to convince intelligent Malaysians that it has successfully transformed itself to be open and transparent, then it is sadly mistaken.

We call upon the Minister in-charge of the Government Transformation Programme, Tan Sri Koh Tsu Koon to save the Government from further embarrassment by taking down the portal immediately and re-launch it at a later date only after cleaning up the data with a fine-tooth comb and including all contracts awarded by all Ministries in the system. Otherwise, it makes a complete mockery of the Prime Minister's promise of “performance now” to all Malaysians.
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