MACC chief says project cartel only exposed now as members previously warned to keep silent

Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission Chief Commissioner Datuk Seri Azam Baki said the investigation was challenging as the issue was 'external and inside'. — Picture by Hari Anggara
Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission Chief Commissioner Datuk Seri Azam Baki said the investigation was challenging as the issue was 'external and inside'. — Picture by Hari Anggara

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KUALA LUMPUR, April 15 — A cartel monopolising government contracts had not previously been exposed as some officers who came forward did not do so before for fear of their safety, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission’s (MACC) chief commissioner said.

In an interview on TVAlhijrah’s Analisis: Barah Lama @ Polemik Baru? show last night, Datuk Seri Azam Baki said the investigation was challenging as the issue was “external and inside”.

“This is what I said, and as the chief commissioner it made me doubt. Why? When I was interviewed recently, I said it is impossible, to me it is not logical that everyone does not know about this. It is not logical. If it’s just one or two people, it is okay. 

“On this matter, our analogy, as the officers conducting the investigation, when I was asked the other day on NTV7, and I gave many examples, whereby I stated that it is impossible that the senior officers or the department heads did not know,” he said.

Azam then gave an example of an unnamed state where sand theft was rampant, where a department head being questioned claimed to not have the manpower to police such activities that have gone on for 10 years.

He likened this to the project cartel that may have been active before 2014, saying several officers have been complaining to their department heads “for long”.

“But I understand that when they say when they want to complain too much, they fear that actions or retaliation from those concerned parties will happen against them. So they are mostly silent, and when they are silent, this is when we do not know much,” he added.

Early this month, the federal anti-graft agency crippled a cartel that monopolised government projects worth RM3.8 billion following the arrest of seven people.

The MACC has arrested several suspects, including its 47-year-old mastermind, since April 4.

According to reports, it is believed that the cartel, dubbed as a “project cartel”, monopolised a total of 345 tenders involving ministries and government agencies nationwide, where the projects are said to be worth RM3.8 billion.

The mastermind of the cartel allegedly controlled 150 companies that were being used to submit tender bids to ministries and agencies.

During the interview, Azam also highlighted MACC’s achievements in tackling other similar illegal monopoly cartels, saying it already identified and charged those involved in similar operations in Sabah and Sarawak.

He added that in Sabah, at least 32 people from a department formed a cartel to demand a 30 per cent fee from contract bidders while another cartel for roadworks contracts was operating in Sarawak.

“So this matter has been ongoing until now, whereby laws regarding monopoly as such, isn’t that present yet,” he said calling such cases a “robbery”.

“But when this matter (cartel monopolising government contract) was brought to me, I ordered immediate investigation although it was only four months since we got the information, and we needed to stop this issue. 

“That’s why when we arrested, there were only seven people to date and I do not discount the possibility that there will be more because there are many documents that we need to scrutinise,” he said, adding that there were certain parties, whose names were repeatedly mentioned during MACC’s investigation.

“So to those people who are watching our actions, thank god when they praise us, but I am quite fearful of praises actually. But give us time to truly scrutinise and investigate this issue. I have ordered that each and every tender received by this company must be investigated one by one,” he said, adding that many other companies were also used to secure the tenders.

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