Ban support letters for those bidding for contracts, says rights group

The letter issued by the deputy prime minister’s political secretary Romli Ishak. (Facebook pic)

PETALING JAYA: A rights group has urged Putrajaya to ban support letters by ministers or their aides after the political secretary to the deputy prime minister came under fire after he was reported to have issued such a document.

“This is an abuse of governmental power, pure and simple. It should be remembered that the letter was issued under the letterhead of the DPM herself, the second highest elected public official in the country.

“Where then is the change promised so often by Pakatan Harapan?,” Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) executive director Latheefa Koya asked in a statement.

Yesterday, the New Straits Times (NST) reported that Romli Ishak, the political secretary to Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail was slammed for issuing a letter about a catering contract to the education minister’s office.

Romli, however, denied any abuse of power, arguing that while he did pen the letter, there was nothing in it to suggest he was recommending the company for the contract.

He also said party members regularly asked for letters to accompany their bids as referrals and “politicians could not turn them down”, but added that he regularly issues such letters for party members to give them “the assurance and confidence to put in bids”.

Latheefa Koya.

Latheefa, however, argued that by supporting an applicant simply because he or she is a party member, the office of the deputy prime minister might be denying a better qualified “ordinary rakyat” from getting the contract.

“Is that fair? This negates everything PH ought to stand for, and is the opposite of the Malaysia Baru that has been promised to us.”

She also labelled it an immoral practice, adding that a government is elected into power to serve all citizens equally, and not to give special treatment to party members.

Latheefa also urged Wan Azizah to explain if she was aware that her political secretary was issuing support letters, and whether she was aware of this specific letter and had authorised the issuance of such letters.

If she was not aware, Latheefa said, it raised the serious question of abuse of the deputy prime minister’s letterhead for unauthorised purposes.

“On the other hand, if the DPM was aware, then she must explain why she allowed this type of patronage.

In June, the government decided that ministers and deputy ministers were not allowed to issue letters of support for any tenders or proposals involving the government.