Wednesday, July 14, 2010

No To "Support Letters"

BN Backbenchers objection to eliminating the influence of “support letters” demonstrate the complete lack of political will to fight corruption and abuse of power

The fight against corruption is touted as one of the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak's 6 National Key Result Areas (NKRA) and Pemandu under the leadership of Datuk Idris Jala has been tasked to ensure its success.

Hence under the “Government Transformation Programme” (GTP) produced by Pemandu, it has called for reducing the influence of “support letters” from politicians, and other influential figures on the civil service with the objective of “reducing leakages” from government procurement. This move has also the support of the Malaysia Anti-Corruption Commission. It says in the GTP document:
...Often, these interventions do not necessarily originate from politicians themselves, but from vested individuals who use the support letters as leverage to negotiate with the Government.
...Initially, we will issue a directive to the civil service that support letters and other associated forms of lobbying should not interfere with or circumvent our processes. The second phase will focus on issuing a directive to eliminate the practice of support letters. In addition, the Ministry of Finance (MOF) will follow up both directives with treasury circulars to all agencies and ministries to reject the content, and any associated recommendations and instructions, within support letters.
Datuk Idris Jala repeated his objective at the Second Annual Corporate Governance Summit 2010 last week by insisting that, “the recommendation letters [well-known figures, such as ministers and members of parliament] should not put undue pressure to bypass the policy of procurement.”

But now, we have BN backbenchers, and even the very Minister in-charge of the Anti-Corruption NKRA, Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz challenging this very principle.

A BN MP was quoted saying “How are the MPs going to help their constituents when they come about and ask for help, requests for getting into universities? Naturally they are frustrated and they want to help their constituents.”

Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz added “I’m in charge of the NKRA (National Key Results Areas) and I have gone through this. We have concluded that this is wrong... MACC and Idris are wrong (on this matter),” said Nazri.

The law minister told The Malaysian Insider that the practice of MPs using recommendation letters to help expedite matters for their constituents was an “age old” practice and insisted that it needed to be retained.

This is where it shows the complete lack of political will by Barisan Nasional to change, and to fight corruption, one of the biggest ills plaguing the country today.

Datuk Idris Jala and Pemandu did not call for the elimination of letters of appeal in support of constituents who are possibly in need of help and assistance from the government. Very clearly, he was calling for the stop in the practice by BN MPs and leaders who issue “support letters” rampantly for politically connected contractors to secure lucrative contracts with the government, from the local, state and federal government.

Such letters create leakages and wastages in our government expenditure as our civil servants are put in the uncomfortable position of having to “please” the big shot, despite it possibly not being in the best interest of the Government,. Such a practice also encourages corruption and political kickbacks for the politicians and Ministers who issue such letters as the letters are worth more than its weight in gold.

We have even seen how such letters, such as the one written by the former Minister of Transport, Tan Sri Chan Kong Choy whose letters of support to Kuala Dimensi Sdn Bhd (KDSB), owned by Barisan Nasional backbenchers' chairman Datuk Seri Tiong King Sing resulted in the Government having to bear the burden of guaranteeing the RM3.6 billion of loans issued to KDSB.

The DAP fully supports Pemandu's call for the letters of support to be eliminated and to quote Datuk Seri Idris Jala, “if the letter says 'please consider', then, it should be taken as 'please consider' and not as a must.” In fact, we would like to go further in calling upon the government to immediately stop the practice of any letters of support for procurement contracts to demonstrate the Government's commitment to its war against corruption, failing which all the beautiful text written in the GTP are just purely rhetoric proving that the Barisan Nasional has no ability to change.
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