PETALING JAYA,Dec 14: An anti-corruption watchdog has called on Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin to bar his ministers from issuing support letters to those eyeing government contracts.
Transparency International-Malaysia (TI-M) president Muhammad Mohan said support letters placed civil servants under unnecessary pressure even though they could choose to ignore it.
“But will this happen? The civil servants will always be concerned about their jobs and positions,” he said.
Last week, Federal Territories Minister Annuar Musa denied claims he abused his power by endorsing a contractor’s bid to be awarded a highway project in Kelantan via direct negotiation, but has admitted to issuing a support letter, which had gone viral in recent days via social media. He said it was in line with his responsibility as an elected representative. Annuar is MP for Ketereh.
Mohan said highway projects should go through open tender to get the best price and quality of work.
Mohan said that support letters could also undermine the government’s efforts in helping the Bumiputeras as good Bumiputeras could end up being sidelined by others who had the advantage of a minister’s recommendation.
“The finance ministry has a very good SOP where good Bumiputera contractors are given priority in the tender (for contracts reserved for Bumiputeras) and we should stick to this SOP for good governance.”
“Once again, we plead with the prime minister to stop his ministers from issuing any support letters. This is not their role. Only the prime minister can stop this,” he said.
Political scientist Chandra Muzaffar said support letters had the potential for abuse and corruption.
“It is important to take a strong stand against this. It is not easy to stamp out this practice, because it is linked to political patronage. The message needs to come from the top, the prime minister of the day, whoever it is, must set the tone.”
Chandra said it is not acceptable for elected representatives to justify support letters for contracts, even if it is deemed as not being harmful. Contracts and jobs should be earned on merit especially when it involves public funds.