Tourism Ministry to be open

By Terence Fernandez and Meena L. Ramadas, The Sun

The Tourism Ministry will reveal all 34 tenderers for its advertising and promotions tenders to dispel the notion that cronies had bid for lucrative jobs with the ministry.

Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen said the winning bid will be announced by Feb 12 – the expiry date of the tender validity period – on the ministry’s website.

[At 7.17pm, the ministry announced the recipients of the 2011-2013 successful agencies:
Naga DDB Sdn Bhd  (ASEAN); Smascom & Designs Sdn Bhd (North & East Asia); Sen Media Sdn Bhd (South Asia, West Asia & Africa);  M&C Saatchi Sdn Bhd (Europe, America, Oceania) and Impact Creations (M) Sdn Bhd (Domestic & Events).]

Saying it was not usual practice to announce the names of other hopefuls, in light of the current controversy following the allegations by advertising agency Integrated Strategic Communications (ISC) Group that tender procedures were “ambiguous”, Ng said the ministry will also make public these companies.

This also follows allegations that “friends” of hers had bid for jobs with the ministry.

“I don’t know if any of my friends had bid. I am totally unaware of this,” she told theSun in an interview at her ministry on Monday.

When theSun mentioned a particular company’s name and individual, Ng said this person did not appear as a director in the documents provided to her ministry.

The minister said she would gladly subject herself and the ministry to investigations by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) following allegations by ISC that it was withdrawing from its bid for the western market after 12 years of servicing the ministry, due to questionable tender procedures.

“I want to ensure that Tourism Malaysia is not demoralised by any accusation especially when the process is done according to procedures that are absolutely accountable and transparent.

“I have instructed secretary-general Datuk Ong Hong Peng to call the MACC. I want them to start investigations as soon as possible if they have any proof as alleged by ISC because I want to settle this quickly,” said Ng, who was accompanied by 12 officers including Ong and acting director-general Datuk Azizan Noordin, who heads the tender committee.

(Ong meanwhile said he had already called the MACC.)

ISC CEO Austen Zecha said he had provided the MACC with documents to back his company’s claims.

Ng dismissed Zecha’s claims that winners would be selected through a set of criteria not previously shared with tenderers but recommended by the selection panel to the ministry.
While saying that the tender process has not changed since 2000, Ng revealed that it was true that the shortlisted candidates were not asked to make any presentation due to a Finance Ministry directive.

“It never changed except now instead of shortlisting, it’s entirely on submission. The Treasury felt that since the pitch provided in the tender was good enough, there was no need for a presentation,” she explained.

Ng said she only has a say when the tender board recommends the ad agency.

“That’s where the minister may say yes or no.”

Ng also clarified and confirmed the following matters:

* the ministry never informs tenderers on progress of bids until the announcement is made within the 180 validity period;

* the advertising budget is only RM381 million divided into RM127 million a year over three years and not RM600 million as reported;

* the tender was advertised in local dailies on July 16, 2010;
* tender brief was on July 19, 2010 attended by 78 people including ISC’s representative;

* tenders closed on Aug 16, 2010; and

* tenders were reduced from 11 to five as it was easier to manage.

On Zecha’s concerns over a new criterion that requires tenderers to have a paid-up capital of at least RM1 million, Ng said it was to ensure only serious bids.

“The ministry had faced payment issues, especially overseas,” she said.
While commending ISC for its work with the ministry including the “Malaysia Truly Asia” campaign, Ng indicated that it may have been presumptuous for ISC to think that it had won the bid by producing the Superbowl commercial when the ministry had yet to make its decision.

“We never asked him to do a commercial for the event. Advertising is about creativity and innovation. And there’s a tendency to go for younger, fresh blood.

“The tender is very competitive. We just want to make sure everybody is given an equal playing field and we get the best,” she said.

She also said Zecha’s concern that Malaysia is yet to have any promotional event this year is unfounded, as ground events continue to be held by Tourism Malaysia offices worldwide.

“Advertising and promotions are just an ambit of our activities,” she said. “Tourists for December and January have already been targeted back in September and October. The first phase of our advertising starts in April and the US is not a primary target.”