KUALA LUMPUR, June 5 — Malaysian businesses that have made it big have now become “hurdles” to the government in its efforts to be more transparent in the award of public project contracts, Umno’s Datuk Mohd Puad Zarkashi said today, with special aim at YTL Corporation Bhd.
In an interview published in Malay daily Utusan Malaysia today, the Batu Pahat MP also demanded YTL’s managing director Tan Sri Francis Yeoh disclose if the company — among the first generation of independent power producers in the 1990s — had gained the tender on merit.
“It is true that big firms don’t have to meet with the prime minister to lobby for projects as he claims,” Puad told the broadsheet, referring to Yeoh, claiming, “but what these giant firms do is, they bribe officers in charge of tenders to rule in their favour.”
“They then go on to build empires in the particular ministries and establish mafia networks within. So YTL shouldn’t be talking big,” he added.
Puad, who is also an Umno supreme councillor, did not elaborate on his bribery allegation but said that YTL should allow the government to review its power agreement, which has drawn criticism and accusations of being “lopsided”.
YTL, founded in 1955, is among the biggest companies listed on Bursa Malaysia with diverse interests ranging from energy production and infrastructure building to property and hotel management.
Yeoh, the son of the founder who is seen to have gained a boost due to its close links of former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, had stirred a storm yesterday at a public forum where he pushed for an end to “crony capitalism”.
In 2010, YTL Power International Berhad (YTLPI), the utility subsidiary of YTL Corp, made a profit of more than RM1.6 billion on revenues of RM13 billion.
Speaking at Pemandu’s Global Malaysia Series programme yesterday, Yeoh said 85 per cent of YTL’s businesses were in Britain, Singapore and Australia because these countries do not tolerate corruption, practise meritocracy and stand for the rule of law.
Yeoh, the eldest son of billionaire Tan Sri Yeoh Tiong Lay, said Malaysia do away with “crony capitalism” and stop racial and religious rhetoric in order to compete on the global stage.
Yeoh went on to claim that non-Bumiputera small and medium enterprises (SME) have “absolutely have no chance” to bid for government projects as they are in the “low end of the food chain”.
“I don’t think you’ll have a chance. Even in Petronas contracts, if (you are) a non-bumi you won’t get to do anything, for example,” Yeoh had said.
Meanwhile, Umno Youth exco member Armand Azha Abu Hanifah also urged the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) to investigate the credibility of Yeoh’s comments and to review every contract awarded to the conglomerate’s subsidiaries.
Tenaga Nasional Berhad’s Junior Officers Union (TNBJOU) president Mohd Roszeli Majid reminded Yeoh that YTL prospered through the government’s “goodwill” in granting the conglomerate “wealth” through its various utility projects.
“YTL should not have come up with such statements, which shows they have become arrogant and they have forgotten everything th government has helped them with,” Mohd Roszeli was quoted saying by Utusan Malaysia in a separate report today.
He urged Putrajaya to review a new joint venture between SIPP Energy Sdn Bhd (SIPP), YTL and TNB for to build and operate a fast-track combined cycle power plant (CCGT) with a capacity of 1,000-1,400 MW in Pasir Gudang, Johor.
“TNB has been the victim of bullying since 1993 after the first IPP contracts were signed, and 21 years on we don’t want to remain victims. We will defend TNB at all cost,” Mohd Roszeli was quoted saying.
Yeoh, however, denied that he said Malaysia practises “crony capitalism” and insisted that the firm’s “achievements made were not a consequence of crony capitalism”.
In a letter to The Malay Mail Online yesterday, he said he had defended the government’s “concerted efforts to introduce more open competition and encourage greater transparency in business” and intended to “correct” the prevailing misperception on “crony capitalism”.