Firm accused of making millions from foreign students denies allegations

Firm says turnaround time for complete and fully-vetted applications for foreign student visas is now less than seven working days. (Shutterstock pic)

PETALING JAYA: Scicom (MSC) Berhad has denied accusations that it has been making hundreds of millions in processing foreign student visas without offering any value added service.

Its senior vice-president, Yeeling Wong, told FMT that prior to Scicom putting its system in place, it took between two and four months for student visas to be issued by the Immigration Department.

“Today, our turnaround time for complete and fully-vetted applications is less than seven working days.

“The purpose of EMGS (Education Malaysia Global Services, owned by the ministry) in this regard has been fully achieved.

“Therefore, to say that Scicom’s role is ‘negligible’ is completely untrue, to say the least,” Wong said.

She said Scicom was a well-regarded Malaysian public company and its finances were open to public scrutiny. Scicom, she noted, was awarded the contract by the education ministry purely on a privately-funded initiative (PFI) basis with zero investment from the government.

She said they had a revenue-sharing model whereby Scicom would bear all of the costs and “provide a significant share of the revenue to EMGS”.

She described as “malicious” the claims by Parti Negara, which earlier today handed over a memorandum to Education Minister Maszlee Malik’s office urging for the contract signed by Scicom and the previous administration to be cancelled.

The memorandum from Parti Negara, led by former PKR man Mohamed Ezam Nor and others, also urged the ministry to recover “hundreds of millions of ringgit in profit” allegedly made by Scicom, which had entered into an agreement with EMGS.

It alleged that Scicom had been charging RM1,000 per foreign student through EMGS, and that visa processing charges per student had gone up by 1,200% since the contract was signed in 2014 with the now-dissolved higher education ministry, then headed by minister Khaled Nordin.

Prior to that, the party claimed the Immigration Department was only charging RM160 per head.

Wong said: “We are unaware of this new party and their motives behind these malicious allegations.

“However, this is not the first time we have received such false and destructive allegations from the protem vice-president of this new party.”

Giving details about her firm and the work they do, she said EMGS, a company limited by guarantee and approved by the Cabinet, was incorporated on April 13, 2012 under the purview of the then higher education ministry.

“As part of its objective of raising awareness about Malaysia as an education hub and capitalising on the expected growth of international student mobility, EMGS launched its international student lifecycle management system in February 2013.”

Scicom was selected through a tender process in November 2012 to provide a software and service proposition and vastly increase stakeholder (institutions, government ministries and agencies and foreign students) engagement and satisfaction.

“The system caters for an end-to-end process in the visa processing of foreign students and the EMGS STARS system is fully developed, operated and maintained by Scicom and highly integrated with various government agencies.”

Wong said Scicom operated two processing sites, along with associated EMGS and Immigration Department officers, “to offer a one-stop solution in the timely issuance of fully-vetted foreign student passes”.

“Scicom’s role in this process comprises of over 200 staff and payment for all associated operating expenses (payroll, rental, utilities, stationery, etc) and capital expenditure.”

She said some of the key modules and applications within the STARS system that had been implemented included an international student application and registration system, student web portal and student tracking system, medical screening and processing system, business intelligence and analytics system, passport tracking system through wireless devices, biometric system and insurance processing system.

In addition, she said, the company provided support 24 hours a day.

“A significant number of the initiatives mentioned above were not in the originally agreed scope but were proposed and implemented by Scicom at no cost to the government or EMGS.

“The transaction management system within STARS processes more than 10,000 transactions per day.”

Wong said they had complied with all the requirements under the contract with EMGS.

She said the company had a sterling track record and an unblemished implementation capability.

“We manage complex operations for multinational clients and governments.

“The CEO happens to be a Sri Lankan national with a Malaysian PR. We do not understand how this can be seen to be illegal in any form.

“The allegations stated are malicious, defamatory and made in bad faith. Scicom would seek legal advice on its recourse against Parti Negara,” she added.