On 22 November the “Auditor-General’s Report on the Activities of Federal Government Ministries/Departments and Federal Statutory Bodies” was published, revealing losses amounting to RM682m from six projects out of the 16 performance audits carried out across 14 ministries.
Auditor General Wan Suraya Wan Radzi said that the biggest loss came from the paddy planting programme (RM606m), while the other major losses were in the Langkawi Development Board’s real estate development programme (RM14.3m), firearms supervisory and management under the Ministry of Home Affairs (RM6.3m), a marine rehabilitation programme (RM490,000), factory investment incentives (RM300,000) and safe city initiatives (RM120,000).
The audit additionally showed that of the 16 projects, a staggering 11 failed to meet their objectives. Furthermore, the performance of three could not be ascertained, while only two succeeded in their objectives.
The Center to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4 Center) is appalled at the above revelations and demands that the government takes these findings seriously.
The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) must open investigations into these cases in collaboration with the auditor general’s office to ascertain if corruption had contributed to these losses.
These revelations further illustrate the urgent necessity for institutional reforms such as the legislation of a government procurement act and the establishment of an ombudsman office.
The breadth of failures across projects in multiple ministries is stunning, especially because many of these projects were concerned with the provision of important goods and services that directly benefit the Malaysian public.
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Wan Suraya’s statements on the paddy planting programme reveal that the government had failed to manage the use of land and logistics of supplies needed for the operation of this programme.
On the procurement of firearms and accessories by the Ministry of Home Affairs for the police, the ministry failed to adequately follow up on the delivery of supplies valued at RM7.5m since 2014, leading to losses of approximately RM6.3m.
In both cases, the government failed to implement a continuous and periodic progress reporting system.
Additionally, the government did not take action despite the failure of the contracted party to supply the contractually required goods and services for an extended period of time, and subsequently did not face any repercussions at the time of audit.
The question that must be answered is how such massive operational failures went unnoticed and unaddressed for so long?
These failures additionally call to mind the existing flaws in Malaysia’s public procurement system – C4 Center has long highlighted the lack of transparency and lack of legal mechanisms that can be invoked in the case of non-performance of contractual obligations by suppliers.
With the revelation of many such cases, it casts further doubt on whether the selection process for contractors was carried out in an open and transparent manner, and whether they indeed possessed the merit and qualifications to carry out these projects.
Public procurement is an area particularly vulnerable to corruption. The lack of an entrenched law to regulate the related processes and to impose accountability measures means that the notion of ‘wastage’ potentially camouflages the more detrimental issue of public money being directed into the personal accounts of corrupt officials.
It is incredibly frustrating that this is just another notch in a long-standing record of public funds being mismanaged and leading to massive losses.
Within the last two years, there have been massive scandals that have emerged as a result of poor governance, which saw millions of ringgit flushed away, including the catastrophic defence procurement in the form of the littoral combat ships fiasco, the delivery of non-functioning ventilators that were completely lacking in any legal documentation, and the alleged mismanagement of Covid relief funds that possibly ended up in the bank accounts of political parties.
The common thread between these scandals is that their harm could have been prevented or minimised through the introduction of institutional reforms that narrow the avenue for public officials to be able to exploit the lack of transparent government for their own gain.
The “unity government” under the leadership of Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim has repeatedly touted its strong stance on good governance and a zero-tolerance attitude towards corruption. But it has been slow to introduce a slew of promised reforms.
It is acknowledged that many of the scandals listed above took place before the current administration took office and that they have been left to clean up the mess.
Nonetheless, a year has passed since the government came into power, and the window of time for the public to extend goodwill towards inaction is surely slimming.
It is not difficult to see why – the Merdeka Centre recently found that Anwar’s approval rating has reduced significantly, with many respondents citing dissatisfaction with Malaysia’s stagnating economic situation.
Certainly, many Malaysians are able to situate this alongside the many scandals that continue to unfold, understanding that the gross wastage is equivalent to the deprivation of welfare and infrastructure that would have materially benefited the lives of many.
The current government has made it known that they are working on some of these reforms, including the procurement act. Nonetheless, we call upon it to expedite the process without any further delay.
Hence, C4 Center strongly urges for:
- The government to prioritise these reforms such as consistent and periodic public reporting on projects so that their progress can be tracked throughout its lifespan to prevent the losses from being revealed only after millions have been wasted
- The role of the auditor general’s office to be further empowered and its capacity strengthened to be able to conduct audits more regularly and unannounced on government bodies
- The government to table a government procurement bill that would codify procurement procedures that would ensure transparency in the selection of suppliers and contractors, as well as their merit and proven track record in providing goods and services
Finally, we call upon the MACC to ramp up efforts to investigate these failures, especially in the cases where irregular payments have been made in order to eliminate corruption from within our governance structures. – C4 Center