Grilled by PAC, Liow defends direct negotiations for Vehicle Entry Permit system

Former transport minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai speaks to the media after a meeting with Public Account Committee (PAC) at parliament in Kuala Lumpur March 27, 2019. — Picture by Mukhriz Hazim
Former transport minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai speaks to the media after a meeting with Public Account Committee (PAC) at parliament in Kuala Lumpur March 27, 2019. — Picture by Mukhriz Hazim

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KUALA LUMPUR, March 27 — Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai today defended the Transport Ministry’s direct negotiations for the Vehicle Entry Permit (VEP) system when he was the Transport Minister.

Citing a bad precedent set by previous contractors as a deterrent towards an open tender, he stressed that despite them negotiating directly with contractors, pre-existing conditions had been set in place to safeguard the interests of the ministry.

“We had agreed that payment would only be released once the project was completed in its entirety, and if it proved to be a success,” Liow told reporters after being grilled by the Public Accounts Committee for almost two hours this afternoon.

“No payment would be issued if the project had not been completed, and if it was not carried out successfully,” he emphasised.

Liow, who was transport minister from 2014 until Barisan Nasional’s defeat in the general election last year, explained that previous projects by the ministry, which were awarded through an open tender, had experienced issues such as incomplete works, and fund leakages.

“For example, the Automatic Fare Collection (AFP) project for the KTM (Keretapi Tanah Melayu); that project failed even though it was awarded through an open tender,” he said.

It was reported that Liow had been hauled by the PAC to explain why they had employed the process of direct negotiation with the VEP system, and several other inconsistencies such as a spike in operational expenditure within the ministry while under his helm. 

Liow told reporters the VEP project was approved by the government before he took the reigns as the transport minister.

“The Cabinet had decided the VEP project needed to be implemented immediately, after Singapore announced they would start charging S$35 (RM105), up from the initial charge of S$20 for their VEP system.

“Following this, I was instructed to expedite the project, where we made the proposal to the National Economic Council, and then obtained approval to go ahead with the project in March 2015,” he explained.

Liow added the VEP system was then set at a rate of RM20, with RM5 channelled to the Johor state government.

“This project was carried out transparently and responsibly to ensure the wellbeing of the rakyat.

“I want to stress the direct negotiations undertaken is not trying to conceal any hidden agenda as we adhered to the guidelines stipulated and set by the government,” he said.

Liow then labelled the VEP project a success, claiming some RM250 million has been collected from Singaporean cars since its implementation.

He added that he was ever ready to assist and be recalled by PAC should the need arise, saying he managed to respond to all queries posed toward him by the committee today. 

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