President and CEO of the United States Sports Academy (USSA) Dr. Thomas Rosandich recently defended the award of an honorary doctorate to Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Education, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, saying that it was based on merit and his proven track record and not linked to a project USSA undertook for the ministry.
What Dr. Rosandich failed to explain is the clear conflict of interest in awarding Tan Sri Muhyiddin this honorary doctorate when the institution he represents, USSA, could potentially benefit from a contract worth up to RM1.15 billion if its pilot project involving the training of Malaysian PE teachers is extended and expanded.
Indeed, in the USSA website, it was stated that ‘It is anticipated that the International Diploma in Physical Education and Scholastic Sports (IDPESS) program may expand into a five-year effort and include the retraining of 50,000 Malaysian teachers.’ The pilot program to train 1000 PE teachers already cost the Malaysian taxpayer RM22.9 million or RM22,900 per diploma in 2012.
An expansion of this program to retrain 50,000 PE teachers could cost the taxpayer an additional RM1.145 billion over 5 years! No doubt such a contract would be given to USSA via its sole Malaysian agent, KH Sports Sdn Bhd whose chairwoman Hisham Suhaili Othman is the Puteri UMNO Chief in the Langkawi division.
The awarding of this honorary doctorate to Tan Sri Muhyiddin when negotiations for the expansion of this program are still ongoing represents a clear conflict of interest on the part of USSA. Tan Sri Muhyiddin also showed poor judgement in accepting this honorary doctorate since it could easily be interpreted as an attempt by USSA to ‘curry favour’ and perhaps even to ‘bribe’ him into agreeing to the extension and expansion of this program.
USSA’s website indicates that this pilot program has been extended to cover 2013 and the number of PE teachers who will undergo this program has been increased to 1,500.
We call upon Tan Sri Muhyiddin to confirm whether this pilot program has been extended and why this PE teachers’ training program continues to be awarded to a predominantly online US university via a Malaysian agent whose main business is selling sports equipment and whose chairwoman is a Kedah Puteri UMNO leader.
We sincerely hope that this will not be met with the same deafening silence as our call for an explanation for Malaysia’s disastrous performance in the 2011 Trends in International Math and Science Study (TIMSS) where our ranking in Math fell from 20th in 2007 to 26th in 2011 while our ranking in Science fell by an ever greater margin, from 21st in 2007 to 32nd in 2011.