By Emmanuel Samarathisa
MORE than 20 months in, and Pakatan Harapan is still struggling to live up to expectations of being a transparent government.
English-language daily The Star reported on Jan 27 that the government had selected a consortium comprising the Naza and Berjaya conglomerates for a 15-year contract to supply, maintain and manage its fleet of official cars and police patrol vehicles.
Citing sources, The Star said the consortium had received a letter of intent from the Ministry of Finance (MoF). The actual awarding of the contract would take place sometime in June.
While there has yet to be an official response to the story from MoF or its minister Lim Guan Eng, maybe they don’t see a need to respond to such “speculation” (the usual answer to unnamed sources), this story is problematic.
Remember that bangarang around Toyota Vellfire and Honda Accords being the go-to for federal ministers and senior government officials?
On Jan 10, images of a fleet of Toyota Vellfire for ministers and Honda Accords for senior government officials to replace the current, albeit ageing, line-up of Proton Perdana and Toyota Camry cars were widely circulated.
This forced a response from Lim who denied the switch. He explained that the Japanese imports were merely an option after – and here’s the clincher – the company in which the government intended to appoint as a supplier indicated that it did not have sufficient stock of Proton Perdana cars.
“They did not have enough for the ministers and deputy ministers. That is why we gave the option if there is not enough, you can choose others,” Lim told reporters per a Malay Mail report on the matter.
He went on to add that the government would make an announcement on the details of the procurement soon as he and his team were finalising the contract with the intended company and stressed that the MoF’s procurement committee, of which he was not a member, made the decision to appoint said company.
This was some two weeks ago. Yet there has not been an official word on the matter. All that Malaysians are served now, through “sources”, is a consortium helmed by two companies with strong links to Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has bagged a lucrative tender.
How difficult is it to divulge the details of the contract? Lim has a team of policy doyens, including special officer Tony Pua, up there in Putrajaya dedicated to such tasks. Surely, this could be settled quickly.
But what Lim wants is for Malaysians to settle on the fact that he and his crew of merry men and women have picked some company. How they arrived at that conclusion, including the price of the contract, is left to anyone’s guess.
Indeed, the reason the government embarked on a review of the fleet management contract is because it wanted a cheaper deal.
The Malaysian Reserve, sighting a document on April 22 last year, said the government had estimated to use between 1,600 and 2,730 vehicles for the next six years. Among the vehicles listed are Proton marques X70, Persona and Saga as well as the Accord and Vellfire.
The government, according to TMR, is expected to fork out RM220 mil annually on the fleet of cars but is looking to trim that cost. Let’s say if the cost holds up, barring any increase due to demand or whatever economic forces one can muster, then a 15-year contract will grant the concessionaire a handsome RM3.3 bil.
That money, according to The Star, is going to the pockets of Naza-Berjaya. The founders of both conglomerates – the late Tan Sri SM Nasimuddin SM Amin and Tan Sri Vincent Tan Chee Yioun – have been observed to have close ties to Mahathir. Both tycoons benefited from Mahathir’s policies during his first stint as prime minister.
This is not to say Naza-Berjaya lacks fleet management capabilities. But this was supposed to be a competitive bid. The details, however, remain opaque. Malaysians are told to put their faith in Lim and Mahathir.
But here’s driving home why the government has to come clean on the budget side of things for its fleet: the previous concessionaire, Spanco Sdn Bhd, ran the government’s fleet management service for 25 years. Its accounts, however, are hidden from the public as Spanco is registered as an exempt private company.
One can only hazard a guess what kind of privileges await the new concessionaire of the government’s fleet management job. Hopefully not approved permits for other foreign vehicles and exempt private company status.
In the meantime, will we ever see the day our ministers either cycle to work, ride the public transport or use the more budget-friendly Perodua Myvi to be chauffeured in and around town? Because surely that RM3.3 bil can be put to benefit Malaysians at large. – Jan 30, 2020