The statement by Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad that Cabinet Ministers have a right to give out contracts “but just not in areas apart from their own” is shocking and an affront to the principles of reform that the Pakatan Harapan government aspires to adhere to (‘Cabinet Ministers allowed to give out contracts, says Dr M’, Malay Mail, 22.11.2019).
The PM was quoted in the said article as saying,
“…actually, Cabinet ministers have a right to give out contracts, but just not in areas apart from their own”.
I am unaware of what right he was referring to but even if there was such a right, it is clearly morally wrong for Ministers to be giving out contracts, whether within or outside their respective jurisdictions as it is elementary that such a practice will undoubtedly create a perception of favouritism on the part of the said Minister, amongst others.
The concept of open tenders is to encourage transparency in the bidding of contracts and to promote competitiveness amongst bidders to attract only those who perform the best.
Needless to say, such tendering process is certainly aimed at weeding out corruption as the awarding of government contracts cannot be left in the hands of any single person, let alone a Minister.
Indeed, it is principally for this reason that Promise 14 of the Pakatan Harapan Manifesto pledges to increase efforts to eradicate corruption.
The PM’s statement can lead to Ministers thinking that they can award contracts as they like as long as it is in their area (whatever that means).
This is exactly what Harapan pledged to get rid of!
The MACC should not be influenced by the PM’s statement and must strive to ensure all efforts are taken to investigate Ministers suspected of abusing their positions by personally awarding contracts.
Transparency in the awarding of government contracts must be a priority in our efforts for reform which cannot be compromised.