KUALA LUMPUR, Dc 15 — The firm Putrajaya set up to manage the country’s 5G network infrastructure could not be compared to 1MDB, Deputy Finance Minister II Yamani Hafez Musa said.

He said this during the Question and Answer (Q&A) session in the Dewan Rakyat today after Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim demanded transparency over Digital Nasional Berhad (DNB) and warned that it could become the next 1MDB.

“This project, as we know, is a big controversy that is currently being scanned and will repeat the economic catastrophe like in the case of 1MDB. So if the deputy minister replies, ‘We expect the cost to be RM12 billion, but there may be additional infrastructure,’ well that is the response that should be given in the Cabinet meeting. If it’s in this parliamentary meeting, we want a definitive answer. There are statements saying RM15 billion, there is RM18 billion, there is an expectation of it reaching up to RM20 billion. We want a definitive answer. That’s the first.

“Secondly, the evaluation process, the tender procurement process must be adhered to. This is a huge burden on the country. I can’t believe it is RM12 billion. The study carried out must reach (it) because we want to take into account the need for additional infrastructures available,” the Port Dickson MP lamented.

He also accused the government of wanting to set a smaller initial figure to avoid an element of shock.

“Let’s not repeat the same problem. Why is the Ministry of Finance (MOF) afraid to reveal all this information? Why is there no open valuation and an open procurement system to determine? I do not object to choosing either Ericsson or Huawei, but let there be a transparent process in this matter,” he added.

“I want to emphasise that this problem would invite a big problem for the country. How is it possible that in the current situation, a mega project that reached almost RM20 billion was approved shrouded in secrecy?” he questioned.

Anwar also demanded to know who received contracts for the project.

“Which crony got it? Whose children? Whose in-laws? We need to know. Many already know this. Who got it and where it went and who was the middle person for commissions above level. Don’t repeat this. If we do not learn from 1MDB, we will never learn,” Anwar said.

In response, Yamani thanked Anwar for his concern regarding DNB, and stressed that it is different from 1MDB.

“Firstly, is the tender process. The DNB’s tender process was actually structured by an independent, professional services firm, Ernst and Young, according to global standards,” he replied.

Lembah Pantai MP Ahmad Fahmi Mohamed Fadzil then interjected, reminding Yamani that 1MDB had also hired banking giant Goldman Sachs.

“They are professionals too. You cannot use that argument,” he retorted.

Yamani replied, however, that Goldman Sachs had raised bonds while the matter with DNB is on open tender.

“There’s a big difference right? So there are four panels made up of about 50 local experts and international ones are from over 10 nations with experience in executing the 5G network currently,” he said, adding that in the tender process, there were 14 companies,from which eight were shortlisted and invited to the process.

A dissatisfied Anwar then stood up to dispute Yamani’s response, adding that he is well aware of how the process works, given his experience as one of the nation’s finance ministers.

“We are asking to reveal that process. Secondly, the decisions made, the one by those above, are those in compliance with the evaluations set by the experts mentioned? You can make a process that is transparent and detailed, but when decisions are being made, there will be interests,” he said, demanding to know the details of intermediary companies involved.

“I know. I was a finance minister for eight years. Followed due processes but when it went to the top, it became a disaster,” he said, also asking as to why the details demanded are being kept secret from the public.

Yamani then said that the government will possibly hold an engagement session with all the MPs of the Dewan Rakyat, to enable DNB to explain matters clearly.

Anwar last week cautioned the government over the seemingly monopolistic nature of the infrastructure development for the 5G network, reminding the Communications and Multimedia Ministry (KKMM) of the irregularities which brought down 1MDB.

DNB, which is owned by the Minister of Finance (Incorporated), has been mandated by Putrajaya to be the single neutral party undertaking the deployment of the 5G infrastructure and network throughout Malaysia.

In numerous reports, DNB officials have reiterated that their model will benefit mobile network operators (MNOs) by reducing cost and gaining better revenue from the leasing of their existing towers and fibre optic cables.

DNB chief commercial officer Ahmad Taufek Omar said the company has offered a free trial of its 5G services wholesale to all MNOs in the country.

The offer is applicable from December 15 to March 31 next year and for all 5G live sites in Putrajaya, Cyberjaya and parts of Kuala Lumpur, national news agency Bernama reported.

So far, only Telekom Malaysia has confirmed that it will be taking advantage of DNB’s offer to conduct 5G trials.