Salahuddin slammed for writing support letter for tender

(FMT) – Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister Salahuddin Ayub has come under fire after admitting he wrote to the prime minister recommending a  RM1 billion tender be given to the National Farmers Organisation (Nafas).

Speaking to FMT, Transparency International Malaysia (TI-M) and the Center to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4) said support letters were not appropriate.

TI-M president Muhammad Mohan said Pakatan Harapan had stated its stand against support letters and as such should refrain from issuing them.

“The intention behind the support letter may be good but the principle is wrong. If we are going to issue support letters, we might as well not have an open tender,” he said.

Yesterday, Salahuddin said he saw nothing wrong with writing the letter of support for Nafas to get an RM1.4 billion padi farming tender as the exercise had yet to be decided. He also said that it would benefit Nafas’ 920,000 members and not enrich him personally, as some had claimed.

This came after MCA president Wee Ka Siong claimed that a minister had written to Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad for Nafas to be appointed for the project.

Mohan said letters of support were unfair to others who took part in the tender.

“Tenders should be judged based on the criteria set and support letters should not play any role in this,” he said.

C4 executive director Cynthia Gabriel criticised Salahuddin for his action.

“It is shameful that a top PH minister has resorted to writing a letter of support to interfere in the tender process,” she said.

Meanwhile, Wee said Salahuddin’s admission showed PH did not walk the talk and that the minister’s deputy, Sim Tze Tzin, did not tell the truth in the Dewan Rakyat.

On Thursday, Sim had said neither Salahuddin nor himself interfered in any tenders linked to the ministry.

Wee said the crux of the issue was that PH was not abiding by its own principles.

“All this while, PH leaders have talked about open tenders and that they are against direct negotiations and support letters. Now that they are in the government, they are doing the opposite. What is this?” he told FMT.

PKR’s Subang MP Wong Chen welcomed Salahuddin’s willingness to be transparent through his admission.

“Now the authorities need to examine if he broke any laws. We should not jump to conclusions but let the authorities do their work independently.

“In my opinion, the bigger problem is the policy on procurements and tenders continues to allow for negotiated tenders. This policy should have been revamped by the Cabinet a long time ago.”

DAP’s Dr Boo Cheng Hau said writing a support letter to the PM was an “unusual practice” as the decision on the tender lay with the finance ministry.

But the Johor DAP committee member said he believed Salahuddin had a good reason for writing the support letter if he could prove that his recommendation benefits the farmers rather than a small group of people.

“This is what is called ‘socialisation’ of the economy, which falls within PH’s manifesto,” he said, adding the onus of proof was on the minister’s shoulders.