Malaysia urged to increase Covid procurement transparency

16 June 2021

The Malaysian government is being urged to ensure transparency around procurement contracts related to tackling the coronavirus pandemic.

The Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS) pointed to spending of 70m ringgit ($1.7m) on a data integration and vaccination appointment system that subsequently suffered technical woes.

A system to book online appointments for the AstraZeneca vaccine under the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme (NIP) saw delays when it was opened in late May 2021.

“Questions must now be raised about how such a substantial amount was spent in light of the appointment system being unable to cope with the high number of appointments made,” said IDEAS.

Tricia Yeoh, IDEAS CEO, said the public disclosure of all procurement contracts related to tackling the pandemic was crucial to dealing with the crisis.

“The poor performance of the website’s booking system... was appalling, reflective of poor technology and caused tremendous frustration to a population already overwhelmed by the Covid-19 crisis,” she said.

“This should not have happened for a nationwide exercise of such grave importance.”

IDEAS cited the International Budget Partnership’s Covid-19 Module study, which ranked accountability of public Covid-19 spending worldwide.

The study judged Malaysia’s accountability and transparency with regards to its Covid-19-related fiscal responses to have been ‘limited’.

While Malaysia earned a relatively good score for transparency it also scored poorly in terms of oversight and public participation.

Sri Murniati Yusuf, manager of IDEAS’ Public Finance Unit, said the ranking showed the government had made commendable efforts to publish information on the stimulus packages.

“However [they] also suggest that the government must improve oversight and public disclosure in a number of other areas, including... procurement exercises.

“Disclosures on procurement are especially important during this time since national crises often require governments to expedite the procurement process.”

This meant the use of non-competitive procurement methods such as direct negotiations was more prevalent, which in turn meant extra oversight was needed to avoid abuses.  

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