Corruption probe triggers call for procurement law in Malaysia

7 December 2022

A Malaysian anti-corruption NGO has called for a Procurement Act and a transparency ombudsman to set limits on emergency state procurement amid allegations of political cronyism.

The call from the Centre to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4 Centre) came after prime minister Anwar Ibrahim’s announcement that the previous administration was being investigated for emergency tenders issued during the pandemic.

“Several decisions [were made] to investigate the expenditure of 600bn ringgit ($137bn) without tenders,” said Anwar.

“The finance ministry has been informed of several breaches, but we leave it to the investigative bodies to probe the extent of the alleged corruption and misappropriation.”

Anwar also said that there had been no proper tender process during procurement of the country’s 5G network, and this would also be investigated.

The C4 Centre called for transparent investigations “owing to the gravity of the situation” and called for reforms “that ensure transparency and accountability in governance”.

Among these were laws concerning procurement, political financing and asset declaration, along with the establishment of an ombudsman answerable only to parliament.

“The Procurement Act is of particular importance here – no doubt, excessive procurements without tender were able to be made on the basis of an emergency arising from the Covid-19 pandemic,” said the NGO.

“A Procurement Act would serve to outline and delineate the limits in which procurements can be made in possible future emergencies instead of allowing unchecked executive power to decide arbitrarily.”

Since taking power in late November, Anwar, who is also finance minister, has said government agencies would be required to display complete details of procurement plans on the official state procurement website.

The Treasury said it would now be compulsory for complete tender information to be displayed and updated on the government’s MyProcurement portal, according to Free Malaysia Today.

“It is the responsibility of all government agencies to ensure that the information displayed on MyProcurement is accurate,” the news site said.

Anwar’s office also stressed that approvals for government procurements under his leadership must now be conducted by tender.

Anwar previously served as finance minister from March 1991 to September 1998 and said that during that period he had given instructions not to allow his family members or close friends to have interests in government-related projects.

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