Graft-fighting contractors stand their ground

By Michael Kaung, Free Malaysia Today

KOTA KINABALU: A group of 13 local contractors who alleged that government contracts approved by Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) are suspect, are coming under political pressure here to withdraw their police reports against a university official.

However, the contractors, who believe they are being quietly blacklisted, are not backing down and slammed a Umno Sabah official for questioning their motives in lodging the reports.

“We have not done anything wrong. Our police reports are not against UMS, but one officer for alleged conflict of interest as his own company is also doing contract works there,” said Henry Soimpon yesterday.

He was responding to Umno Sabah Sepanggar brach chief Jumat Idris’s recent call for UMS to take legal action against them for lodging police reports against the UMS officer.

Jumat had rubbished allegations of corruption in the handling of development projects in UMS, saying the contractors had tainted the integrity of the most beautiful university in Sabah.

He also questioned the timing of the police reports, which were made when Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak visited the State on July 17 and 18.

Najib had assured them then that the federal finance ministry would investigate the local contractors’ claims and action would be taken, pending a report from the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC).

Henry was among the 13 local contractors who had lodged separate police reports in June and last month after their allegations were denied by UMS vice-chancellor Dr Kamaruzaman Ampon.

Kamaruzaman had said there were no grounds to pursue an investigation as the officer concerned had resigned from a company he had previously owned when UMS had employed him in 2008.

However, Henry reiterated that recent corporate information extracted from the Companies Commission of Malaysia showed that the officer remains the biggest shareholder, with 78% share in the company doing the contract works with UMS.

The disclosure raised a question: was it proper for the university to approve and award contract works to its own officers who were sitting on UMS’ contracts awards panel?

‘ We’re only seeking justice’

The local contractors also alleged that the university had never paid the officer wages or allowances since 2008, while the company made his contributions to the EPF and Socso.

They also noted that company documents such as claims and payments from 2008 carried the officer’s signatures.

They also alleged that a senior officer from a ministry who has been appointed to the university’s tender board and internal audit committee is related to the officer.