RM6.5 billion on food? No kidding!

Somehow, I missed the articles on the MyProcurement Portal as reported in Malaysiakini, theSUN and The Malaysia Insider. I was quite shocked to discover that a RM6.47 billion contract to supply meals to army camps in three states (for three years) listed on the treasury’s new website lacked details. How can it be that such an insane sum of money can be spent on food???

Consider the following excerpt from The Malaysian Insider:

The opposition party also suggested that the lack of transparency and data could only lead to the conclusion that the amount spent could have bought the country four more submarines.

DAP national publicity officer Tony Pua told reporters here in Parliament that the MyProcurement Portal launched by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak last week seriously lacked data “to make informed judgments with regards to a particular contract award.”

“There is a question of data integrity within the MyProcurement portal and what steps are being taken to verify the information posted on the site. If the information on the portal is to be taken seriously, then surely the information posted must be accurate to ensure a high degree of integrity,” said Pua.

According to Pua, a quick check on the portal revealed that the largest contract since June 2009 amounting to RM6.47 billion had been awarded to Syarikat Era Frozen Sdn Bhd by the Ministry of Defence.

“More curiously, the huge contract was for the supply of ‘rangsum segar’ (fresh rations), which could have bought the Ministry four more submarines! While the value of contract for food items would have certainly raised eyebrows, I’d like to believe that there are some decimal point errors involved,” said the DAP man.

Pua, who was accompanied by Segambut MP Lim Lip Eng claimed that the portal stated at least 38 awards amounting to RM182 million, but did not disclose any company name or company number.

“For example, a tender to supply and deliver ‘vest body protection (level 3)’ for the armed forces was awarded for RM82.8 million. The most basic question to ask, before any judgement can even be made, what is the quantity requested. Without the quantity, one would not be able to know per unit price. In fact, the Myprocurement portal does not even provide basic useful information such as the date of tender, date of award, number of participants,” alleged Pua.

He said comparatively, Singapore’s Government e-procurement portal provided detailed information on the tender request with relevant attachments, a schedule of all competitive bids and the details of successful bids.

He claimed that the biggest problem faced by the government’s procurement system was the awarding of direct contracts via patronage to rent-seekers, resulting in wastage, corruption and failed projects.

“Datuk Seri Najib Razak disclosed that contracts which have been awarded via direct negotiations will not be published in the Myprocurement portal. When queried by a reporter, he had sheepishly responded that ‘it will not because…very limited, because it is a security-related exercise’.”