• The BN media is conducting a systematic public lynching of the Pakatan Harapan state government, with anonymous sources from the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission(MACC) leaking false information, alleging that kickbacks were given to “key politicians” in the Penang undersea tunnel project, who received between tens of thousands and several million ringgit for their cooperation. Such malicious innuendos in press reports are dishonest not only because they are fake and violate the very basis of fairness, but also an abuse the powers of the press to vilify the opposition, in the run up to the coming general elections.

    The Penang state government cannot sue for defamation, only individuals can do so. Would the BN newspapers such as New Straits Times, Star, Berita Harian and Utusan Malaysia dare to print the names of the so-called key politicians involved so that the Penang state government can take legal action to protect its reputation? Failure to do so would explain to these newspapers why less and less people read their newspapers nowadays.

    The BN media reports of kickbacks to Penang state government politicians is clearly a lie because firstly, how can there be kickbacks when not a single cent had been paid for the tunnel project. Secondly, there was no mention that the Independent Checking Engineer(ICE) is part of this conspiracy. It would be impossible for any payment whether by cash or land swap by the state government to the contractor, unless the ICE verifies and supports such claims.

    The award for the RM6.3 billion project comprising of the under-sea tunnel and 3 main highways was conducted through an open competitive tender under the Penang State Committee. Treasury Instructions issued under the 1957 Financial Procedures Act requires the Penang State Tender Committee to be chaired by the Penang State Secretary and comprising only government officials.

    To ensure that the entire project complies with CAT principles of competency, accountability and transparency, an Independent Checking Engineer (ICE) was appointed to provide another mechanism to protect the state government against any malpractices and misfeasance. HSSI Sdn Bhd, a professional engineering consultant, was appointed and paid by the state government, to be the ICE to verify and certify the designs and claims made by the project contractor – Consortium Zenith Construction Sdn Bhd (Zenith).

    HSSI was also appointed by the Penang State Tender Board. The state government only makes payment to such claims upon the recommendation of the ICE, that is HSSI Sdn Bhd. For any kickbacks to occur, HSSI must be part of this corruption game. There was no reports in the BN media that HSSI Sdn Bhd was also involved. How then can the kickbacks happen without the approval or sanction from HSSI Sdn Bhd?

    This internal control mechanism appointing external independent professionals to recommend payment of either cash or land swap, makes it impossible for politicians or even government servants to solely decide on the quantum of payment and whether to pay or not to pay. How then can politicians be able to receive kickbacks when they have no absolute power to decide or the power to decide whether to make payment or whether to pay or not to pay, is taken away from them?

    Whilst the state government can easily disprove and refute these wild BN media reports as lies, what is disturbing is that the MACC passively allows such leaks of false information to occur without any punitive action. Investigations even false information, are not supposed to be disclosed and published in the press so as not to jeorpardise investigations.

    Why the double-standards by MACC when MACC had acted quickly, when there were so-called information leaks in the social media, alleging wrongdoing by the Johor Menteri Besar, over corruption in the housing scandal in Johor? Such passivity and inaction will further erode and undermine the dwindling credibility and integrity of MACC. The continued failure of MACC to act against false BN media reports will only give rise to an unfortunate impression that investigations are politically motivated, especially in the background of the looming general elections.

    The simple question is this, “Where is the corruption when the entire project is conducted by open competitive tender granted by the Penang Tender Board?”

LIM GUAN ENG