Monday, May 09, 2011

1Malaysia Email: Truth & Lies (II)

I had taken the opportunity to read every word in the advertorial placed by PEMANDU to explain and justify the “1Malaysia Email Project” controversy across all major newspapers and even news portals yesterday.

I also read with interest the repeated assertions with regards to “misrepresentations spewed by the vocal minority”. Datuk Idris Jala had clarified that “the reason why PEMANDU is clarifying this situation is to make sure that the general public is not misinformed by people who distort the truth” and that “PEMANDU believes in integrity and transparency.”

I am not sure if I’m included in this exclusive circle of “vocal minority” who is “bent on distorting the truth”, and I shall not be so bold as to think that the criticisms are directed at me. However, after reading the “comprehensive” reply, I’m felt compelled to compile my own list of “frequently asked questions” (FAQs) on “truths and lies about MyEmail”

Q1: Is the “1Malaysia Email Project” a Government initiative or a private initiative?

Fact #1: Tricubes issued a statement on Bursa Malaysia on 4 April 2011 “The Board of Directors of TRICUBES wishes to announce that the Company has on 4 April 2011 accepted the appointment by the Government of Malaysia represented by Malaysian Administrative Modernisation and Management Planning Unit (“MAMPU”) vide MAMPU's letter of award dated 29 March 2011 to implement the 1Malaysia Email Project. TRICUBES will enter into a definitive agreement with Government of Malaysia to finalise the detailed terms and conditions of the appointment in due course.”

Fact #2: The original text description of the project on PEMANDU website says “The 1Malaysia Email project is a government initiative in providing a unique and official email account and ID for the citizens of Malaysia”. After the initial public outcry, the description was however changed to “The 1Malaysia Email project which features the domain name of ‘myemail.my’ is a private sector initiative led by Tricubes Berhad to provide a unique and official email account and user ID for interested citizens of Malaysia.”

Fact #3: Datuk Idris Jala now reclarifies that “it was always seen as a Government initiative, funded by the private sector”. The Advertorial also added that “a competitive selection process was undertaken [by MAMPU and GITN] to ensure high technical standards and the right business model are adopted at the lowest cost and highest quality. The evaluation team [from MAMPU and GITN] selected Tricubes Berhad based on these criteria.”

Truth or Lie?

The “facts” above issued by PEMANDU and Tricubes is riddled with contradictions which are self-explanatory. What is the truth and which is the lie?


Q2: Is there a “concession” or not in the 1Malaysia Email award?

Fact #4: PEMANDU says “MyEmail is neither a concession nor a long-term commitment which binds the Government to use it for all its correspondences to the public… If there is any company that can come up with a better, cheaper and even more secure email service, the Government and public agencies are completely at liberty to use their services instead of Tricubes.

Fact #5: PEMANDU claimed “the selection process is merely an assessment to find out which company would likely succeed in rolling out the email service based on its capabilities. It does not mean that other companies cannot offer their own version of the service.

Fact #6: PEMANDU also stated that “however, overlapping projects could lead to waste of resources and that is why the evaluation team only selected one company.”

Truth or Lie?

The Government claims absolutely anyone can offer the “email” services. At the same time, it went through a “competitive selection process” and argued that “overlapping projects could lead to waste of resources” (Fact #3). Tricubes has announced that it’ll be signing a “definitive agreement” with the Government of Malaysia (Fact #1).

So what type of agreement will that be? A “definitive non-binding agreement”? Or certain preferences or advantages will be granted to Tricubes which will not be available to any other companies? What is the truth and which is the lie?


Q3: Will the Government pay nothing for the services?

Fact #7: PEMANDU says “there are a small group of detractors who keep asserting without basis that this project is a waste of public funds. How can this be a waste of public money when not a single sen of public money is or will be spent, while a lot of public money can be potentially saved?”

FACT #8: PEMANDU added that “… Tricubes can generate revenue through service charges to the Government, its agencies and private sector clients as well as users of their value-added services… While the Government will spend money for the services rendered by Tricubes similar to other services it uses, the amount spent will be significantly less than what it is current(ly) spending.”

Truth or Lie?

So will the Government pay or will the Government not pay? What is the truth and which is the lie?

PEMANDU is perhaps misdirected in its response, intentionally or otherwise. The people are asking why pay 50 sen for every email sent? That is “a waste of public funds”. PEMANDU is arguing that the Government doesn’t have to pay for the project, just as the BN Government has argued that the Government need not fork out a single sen to build the various “private” highways. You only pay for it later via toll, as you use the highway, or government compensation.


Q4: Will the Government save RM200 million?

FACT #9: PEMANDU says “the Government benefits because… it can save about 50% of the current cost of sending correspondences. In 10 years, the project can save the four agencies used in the simulations at least RM200 million.”

FACT #10: According to PEMANDU, “Government agencies pay up to RM1 per mail and even RM2 for each returned hardcopy correspondence… when you use the MyEmail platform… cost up to 50 sen per email.”

FACT #11: By outsourcing it, the Government will avoid having to invest RM50 million and avoid spending money operating the email system… It is more cost efficient and effective to use best-in-practice platforms offered by specialised private entities.”

Truth or Lie?

Based on the simulation figures cited by PEMANDU, these 4 agencies alone will issue 400 million emails over 10 years, in order to save at least RM200 million based on RM1 per physical correspondence and 50 sen payable to Tricubes for each email.

Tricubes will hence be investing the assumed RM50 million, gets back RM200 million over 10 years, a 300% return. And if more than 4 Government agencies use the system, then the return will be even higher. Is this ‘outsourcing’ mechanism more cost efficient and effective? Should the Government to trying to save RM200 million or RM350 million, if the so-called MyEmail project is indeed so effective?


Q5: Is 50 sen per email reasonable?

FACT #12: PEMANDU says “the cost saving is derived from the free email delivery. The remaining cost of 50 sen goes towards extracting the information required from the database and presenting them in the respective formats. Most agencies do not possess this system, also known as the digital bill presentment solution.”

FACT #13: PEMANDU says “by investing up to RM50 million in a secure and efficient email system and value-added services over five years, Tricubes can generate revenue through service charges to the Government, its agencies and private sector clients as well as users of their value-added services. The plain email service is free.”

Truth or Lie?

PEMANDU or Tricubes should perhaps come out in the open to say for certain, if the 50 sen per email charge is based on emails delivered to accounts in Tricubes’ database, or is the 50 sen inclusive of setting up the entire hardware and software infrastructure to deliver government bills and notices to an electronic format, or the so-called “digital bill presentment solution”.

They are 2 completely different types of project. The email portion just takes the “output” from the “digital bill presentment solution” and delivers them electronically via email to the account holders. The second involves restructuring and reengineering the billing systems of the Government agencies.

Citibank and Maybank also have “digital bill presentment solutions”, but they can still deliver their statements and bills to account holders via free email accounts like Gmail or Yahoo! Mail. Is Tricubes also responsible for the implementation of “digital bill presentment solutions” in these Government agencies? This is of a vastly different scope from what has been presented about the “1Malaysia Email project” so far.


I can go on raising questions on the points raised in the PEMANDU advertorial. But the above 5 questions alone will give you points to ponder. Am I among the “small minority that has already made up their minds” that “even after [PEMANDU] publish these facts, this small group will continue to reject the facts and find ways and means to distort the truth”, that Datuk Idris Jala is referring to?

I’ve presented the statements made by the Government, PEMANDU and Tricubes itself. Malaysians can decide for themselves, what are the truths and which are the lies. It is unfortunate that I will not be able to spend tax-payers’ monies to publish the above in all major newspapers and portals.
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