Table procurement bill immediately, C4 tells Putrajaya

Cynthia Gabriel says a procurement law is vital in the current fiscal environment.

PETALING JAYA: Anti-graft group Centre to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4) today urged Putrajaya to quickly table a government or public procurement bill in Parliament to resolve leakages highlighted in the 2017 Auditor-General’s (A-G) Report.

Its executive director, Cynthia Gabriel, said this would be in line with Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng’s indication in Budget 2019 to implement such a law.

“However, an exact date (for tabling the bill) was not given,” Cynthia said in a statement.

“C4 would like to call on the government to table the government procurement bill as soon as possible to resolve leakages revealed in the A-G’s Report 2017 Series 2.

“A public procurement law is vital in the current fiscal environment which is debt-ridden and there is an urgent need to reduce government expenses which led to wastage of taxpayers’ money.

“There is a continuous damaging trend of wastage which has not been addressed even though it has been highlighted by the A-G in its reports annually,” she said.

Lim, when tabling Budget 2019 on Nov 2, said: “We intend to table a new government procurement act next year to govern procurement processes to ensure transparency and competition while punishing abuse of power, negligence and corruption.

“Open tenders will not only achieve more value for money for the taxpayers but will also breed a more efficient and competitive private sector,” he said.

Cynthia pointed out that the A-G’s Report had indicated some 61% of high-risk federal departments did not comply with procurement policies as they failed to meet the 39 criteria for procurement.

Of these, seven departments made direct purchases amounting to RM3.2 million beyond the stipulated limit of RM20,000.

A federal agency made purchases of RM850,000 without an open tender, she said.

“The purchases of the seven federal departments included stationery supplies, printing, maintenance, smart television and many more.”

Furthermore, the report identified issues such as inaccurate and incomplete information of the departments’ expenses and contracts signed beyond the due date, she said.

Cynthia said that if a procurement law came into existence, it would need to be enacted alongside a Public Ombudsman Office. This will allow for the act to effectively address conflict of interest issues, she added.

“The enforceability of the act must have clear punitive measures outlined to act on wrongdoers across the supply chain and ensure effective implementation.

“Parliament must further equip the Public Accounts Committee to conduct thorough investigations on the serious malfeasance reported in the A-G’s Report, and ensure punitive action is clearly meted out, via the chief secretary.”

The finance ministry is responsible for all procurements, which are governed by the Financial Procedure Act, Government Contract Act, Treasury instructions, Treasury circulars, and Federal Central Contract circulars, according to TheEdgeMarkets.

Cynthia previously claimed that the finance ministry under the Barisan Nasional administration had abused the procurement policy and system, leading to the failure of enforcement by government agencies.