A political drama between Malaysia’s current and former finance ministers is brewing over multimillion-dollar projects awarded through direct negotiations.
Finance Minister Zafrul Abdul Aziz, 47, last night released a list of more than 100 of such projects that he said were approved under the earlier Pakatan Harapan (Alliance of Hope) government to get back at his predecessor Lim Guan Eng, only to discover later on that some of the projects listed were approved by the previous Barisan Nasional (The National Front) government before it was replaced in the last general election in 2018.
“A big lie from the current Finance Minister,” former finance minister Lim wrote on Twitter in response to the list. He was recently charged for soliciting bribery over the Penang undersea tunnel, among other charges, but has pleaded not guilty.
“Most of the projects were not Pakatan Harapan’s initiatives but were inherited when we took over administration from Barisan Nasional. Pakatan Harapan continued these projects with budget cuts that led to significant savings,” Lim said in a separate statement today. He noted that Pakatan Harapan only approved RM352 million or 0.07% of the projects listed.
The 59-year-old last Tuesday challenged Zafrul to release a list of projects awarded through direct negotiations under Barisan Nasional, Pakatan Harapan, as well as the current Perikatan Nasional (National Alliance) government, thinking that Zafrul might be afraid of exposing “traitors” among ministers who may have negotiated directly with Lim.
“I challenge Zafrul to release the full list of direct negotiations of BN, PH, and PN. Or is he afraid to reveal that other ‘traitor’ ministers have actually asked for direct contracts from me when I was the country’s Finance Minister?” Lim wrote in a statement.
The list released by Zafrul had contained details of more than 100 projects worth RM6.61 billion (US$1.58 billion) and included several telecommunications projects worth more than RM4 million involving national telco Telekom Malaysia, as well as a RM6 million project involving the Ministry of Education and the country’s Malay language board.
Zafrul told reporters yesterday that projects can only be approved through direct negotiations with ministers when they are urgently needed or when they meet certain conditions.
“The procurement of supplies and services based on urgent needs, and if the procurement is not implemented immediately, it can be detrimental and would affect the services and interests of the country,” he said.
Other projects where direct negotiations with ministers are allowed are those that involve vendors who can supply all the required services, projects that protect the interest of national security and strategy, or projects that involve a manufacturer from the indigenous or Bumiputera community.
Hours after Zafrul’s list came out, former Deputy Minister of International Trade and Industry Ong Kian Ming pointed out that four of the projects from the list were already approved under the Barisan Nasional government led by convicted ex-prime minister Najib Razak and before Pakatan Harapan took power.
“Hope that Zafrul and his team at the Ministry of Finance can review their list of direct nego projects carefully,” he wrote online.
The four projects cost RM7.6 million and included one involving a March 2018 summit with YouTubers that cost RM545,000, which was approved by the Ministry of International Trade and Industry under Najib’s government.
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This article, Lim Guan Eng calls list of multimillion dollar projects approved by ministers ‘a big lie’, originally appeared on Coconuts, Asia's leading alternative media company. Want more Coconuts? Sign up for our newsletters!