Saturday, April 23, 2011

Rent-Seeking a-la-NEM?

Najib and Pemandu must come clean with the “1Malaysia Email Project” details by revealing all terms and conditions of the concession awarded to Tricubes Berhad, and stop digging a deeper hole for themselves with flip-flopping answers

It is almost comical the way our Prime Minister, Datuk Najib Abdul Razak and Pemandu officials are heaping layers of misleading and contradictory statements in an attempt to cover up the “1Malaysia email project” fiasco.

First, Pemandu had to take the trouble to edit the description of the project from a “government initiative” to a “private sector initiative”, despite the fact that Tricubes Bhd has announced on Bursa Malaysia that it was awarded the email project by the Malaysian Administrative Modernisation and Management Planning Unit (Mampu).

Then, Datuk Seri Najib Razak had to assure Malaysians via Twitter that the much-criticised project would not be funded by the government and nor made compulsory.

However, in a radio interview with BFM yesterday, business services NKEA communications content and infrastructure director Dr Fadhlullah Suhaimi Abdul Malek disclosed that government agencies will pay Tricubes Bhd to use the company’s 1Malaysia e-mail database.

Fadhlullah Suhaimi said he expected agencies to pay Tricubes about 50 sen per e-mail, “cheaper than the RM1.00 printing, stationery, postage and dispatch cost of sending a regular letter.”

This disclosure comes as a complete shock to Malaysians because the Prime Minister has assured us that the Government will not be paying a sen for the project! And yet, it is now obvious that the “1Malaysia email project” is a scheme designed to fleece tax-payers monies with a service that is completely unnecessary.

The fact of the matter is the creation of an "official email" account is absolutely unnecessary in "official" dealings with the Government. At this point of time, even Maybank and Citibank are able to send my monthly bank and credit card account statements to my Yahoo or Gmail accounts. I also have no problems receiving my monthly mobile phone bills from Digi Telecommunications. The signing up of a "1Malaysia" account is not only a hassle, it is clearly a barrier created specifically for certain parties to profit.

While Dr Fadhlullah tried hard to justify the project by claiming that Government agencies will only pay 50 sen for each email sent via the 1Malaysia email account as opposed to RM1 for cost of printing and postage, he failed to explain why 50 sen should even be paid when banks and telecommunication companies pay absolutely nothing to send us our bills and statements today without having to set up "special" email accounts!

Clearly the design and nature of the "1Malaysia email project" is to create an artificial need for a concession to provide rent-seeking opportunities for companies which may find it difficult to provide real value-added services in a competitive environment.

Given that the Prime Minister and Pemandu officials have been tripping over each other to provide flip-flopping explanations which repeatedly contradict each other, Pemandu must to the right thing and disclose in full the contract awarded to Tricubes Berhad so that the public can know the full truth.

The failure of Pemandu to do so will only make a mockery of its own Government Transformation Programme (GTP) which calls for the elimination of rent-seeking while increasing transparency and accountability. Pemandu should protect its reputation by calling a spade a spade, and call for the withdrawal of the project which has without a doubt, become an international embarrassment for the Najib administration.
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