Penang local councils bought fake awards, says report

Muhammad-Farid-Saad-fake-eba-cert-1GEORGE TOWN: Penang Umno says the state government must be held responsible for claims that local councils here had received “bogus” international awards, which, according to a report in a local Chinese daily, may have been paid for by the council.

State Umno assemblyman Muhammad Farid Saad referred to the front-page report by Guang Ming Daily today in demanding an explanation from the Penang government on whether it had used ratepayers’ money to buy the awards.

“Was this award ‘bought’ by the councils just to seek international praise and recognition that the Penang government led by DAP is the best?

“It is extremely disappointing and shameful for all Penangites if it is indeed true that MBPP and MPSP had paid money to EBA to get such awards,” Farid said.

According to Farid, the Chinese daily had claimed the awards presented by the Europe Business Assembly (EBA) to the Penang Island City Council (MBPP) and Seberang Perai Municipal Council (MPSP) were likely to have been “bought”.

Guang Ming had based its report on an expose on the EBA by The Times, a UK daily.

The Times had alleged that EBA, run by Ukrainian businessmen, made use of the renowned Oxford University’s name and reputation to hand out awards to those who paid a sum.

Checks by FMT showed MPSP had received the “Best City Award”, “Best Holiday Destination”, “Best Cities-Licence” and “Top Medical/Travel/Hospitality Website” awards from EBA in 2014.

That same year, then MPSP president Maimunah Mohd Sharif won EBA’s “Best City Manager Award”. In 2013, EBA named MBPP mayor Patahiyah Ismail as “Best Municipal Manager”.

Following the Guang Ming report and the allegations from the state opposition, Penang state executive councillor for local government Chow Kon Yeow released a statement expressing regret that the two councils had been embroiled in controversy.

“The local councils are reminded to focus on delivering the services, and the people’s satisfaction would be the best form of recognition,” Chow said, adding that the leadership at local councils should learn their lesson and be more discerning and careful when nominated for such awards.

He also spoke of how the two councils had received awards and recognition from various federal ministries, departments and institutions, professional bodies and accreditation agencies.

“We applaud them for their achievements including the five-star rating for local authorities bestowed by the housing and local government ministry,” Chow said.

EBA’s ‘International Socrates Award’

According to EBA’s website, the group is “an international corporation of social partnership” established in Oxford, UK, in 2000.

It lists developing and promoting social and economic links between companies, investors, education establishments, cities and countries worldwide as its main objectives.

The Times had also reported that EBA advertises itself as an Oxford institution to sell “made-up prizes” such as “The International Socrates Award” and “The Queen Victoria Commemorative Award” for up to £9,300 (RM52,000).

The report claimed the EBA outfit was run by Ukrainian businessmen, targeting areas where people had the financial power to buy such accolades.

A former employee told The Times that the outfit was told to focus on customers from the Middle East, eastern Europe and Russia “where the idea that money buys you credentials is still there”.

EBA was also revealed to have used images of Oxford colleges and even the same typefaces in its publicity materials. It also claimed “exclusive” access to special lectures from Oxford, the report said.

The University of Oxford told the daily it has no relations with EBA.