Why We Need Open Tenders

Good morning. I am preparing to go to Parliament. Just a short note before I forget.

Yesterday at the PAC hearing, I asked a policy question to the MoF officials. While I cannot disclose the substantive content of the hearing (by right, in the new Malaysia, all Committee hearings should be aired live), I am able to disclose the policy point I raised in the meeting.

We were hearing an abandoned government project from a company that got the project via negotiated tender (i.e no open tender). So I asked the official to disclose what is the current PH policy on negotiated tender. There has been no substantive policy change, no new directives or guidelines.

I recall in August 2017 when I completed the advance draft of the PH Alternative Budget 2018, I had to brief all the PH senior leaders and get their feedback. In the meeting, I spoke about the issue of government tenders. During the 2 hour briefing, no one said a word.

After the meeting, Mukhriz Mahathir approached me and the following day we had a 3 hour meeting in his office. He wanted to share his insider views on how to make government tenders better and more competitive. We had a very productive meeting and together we refined the policy on tenders, improving on the quantum limit, pre-qualification and graduation system that I designed.

To put it simply, the PH government must quickly implement new procurement policies, especially on the issue of tenders. They must set a quantum limit whereby any project above a certain value must be done via open tender.

For instance, a simple policy is to say that all procurement supplies and services above RM1 million must go through an open tender. No negotiated tender except for projects below RM1 million (the cost of the tender exercise will consume a chunk of the profit margin). Any engineering projects above RM20 million must also go through higher financial, experience and engineering capability pre qualifications.

Bumiputera companies may be given a reasonable percentage of government contracts according to a project value scale, but they must compete against each other in an open tender format. There must also be a graduation process, for instance after successfully delivering the third government project, these Bumiputera companies must “graduate” to compete with others, including foreign companies in open tenders. This is to prevent the creation of a few dominant Bumiputera companies that will retard and block the rise of the next generation of Bumiputera entrepreneurs.

In other words, we have to change the procurement and tender policy from political and arbitrary entitlement (hence open to corruption and abuse of power) and move to one that focuses purely on providing initial opportunities, managed and limited by project value and time graduation.

Updates from Parliament

8th October 2019

Reporting from Parliament. Another busy day for me. Tomorrow promises to be a slightly slower pace for me.

This morning at 9.50 am, I had a talk with the MITI Timbalan KSU on RCEP. Then I went to introduce Subang Jaya Buddhist Association members to my friend, Dato Dr Marzuki. Marzuki and I worked together for a year on PH policies and manifesto. I also had a quick chat with HE Gunn, the Norwegian Ambassador.

Then I rushed to the RCEP briefing and caught up with Darrell Leiking. Then rush back to the main building for a PAC hearing. After 2 hours of PAC hearing, I had lunch with my wife at the Lake Club. After lunch, I worked on my budget speech with Alethea and new intern Joyce. Then back to the hall where the anti fake news repeal bill is being debated. We will end the day at 5.30 pm.

IPCMC Bill: A Promising Sign of Meaningful Change

Good morning. A quick note on the IPCMC bill that was debated yesterday. It is a story of a procedural folly that inadvertently became a historic positive moment in Malaysian Parliamentary history.

The proposal for an independent commision to handle complaints against the police started a long time ago, as far back as 2005. Back then, a royal commission report made the recommendation to pass a new law. Fast forward 13 years later, when PH took over government in May 2018, the idea of tabling an IPCMC bill was revived yet again, this time presumably with full political will from the PH government.

The IPCMC was one of a cluster of secondary reforms in the PH manifesto. The primary systemic and structural reforms in the manifesto have yet to even start.

Nevertheless, there was hope that PH will get this bill passed. However when it was tabled for 2nd reading yesterday, the bill was clearly inadequate. Some PH backbenchers whose interests are on the criminal justice system, in particular YB Ram Karpal looked at the bill on Saturday and informed the minister that many backbenchers will not support it. What followed was a series of behind the scene moves to salvage the bill, and ended with a face saving move to refer the bill to the Select Committee for the Consideration of Bills, which was created in December 2018.

Parliamentary history was inadvertently made yesterday. For the first time ever, the law making process would now involve a select committee’s consideration.

Next step, is to quickly solidify this process by forming a lot more ministerial select committees and revamping sections of the Standing Order. Yesterday was truly groundbreaking. It also serves as a lesson to ministers that they have to engage select committees before tabling a bill.

Going through the select committees is the norm around the world! Thanks to the previous BN administrations, only in Malaysia, ministers can bypass committees in the law making process. With the ruling yesterday, I hope the PH ministers will finally wake up and see the need to change this process. Then we can finally see the start of meaningful structural reforms in Parliament.

The First Day of the Season

7th October 2019

What a busy day. At 10.50 am, I gave a 10-minute briefing for Anwar Ibrahim on the latest economic and trade news. Then at 11 am, I organised a meeting for political scientist Wong Chin Huat and a few PKR MPs led by Chief Whip Dato Johari. Then at 12 noon, I joined Kelvin Yii of Kuching to greet six young American politicians. We visited the PAC office, gave them a short tour of Parliament and lastly Kelvin and I did a Q&A session with them.

At lunch, I was at the MESTECC briefing but nothing was said on the transboundary haze issue. At 2.30 pm, I was invited by Mustapha Mohamed of Jeli to join the Budget Select Committee briefing by the Bank Negara Governor. It was a good session, exchanging views and opinions with her. The briefing ended at 4 pm.

This was followed by several informal meetings with MPs from all parties, in particular catching up with Awang Hashim of Pendang and Hasan Ariffin of Rompin. I also meet up with several my GPS friends including Hanifah of Mukah, Lukanisman of Sibuti and Alexander of Kapit.

Also good to catch up with my usual suspects; Syed Ibrahim, Akmal, Nik Nazmi, Noraini, Thomas, Alice, Kashturi, Charles, Mastura, Larry, Yee Kew, William and Arthur. Izzah is unwell today.

The first day of this long session is a bit like a college reunion, I am constantly shaking hands, catching up with my colleagues and opponents. I take a simple attitude in dealing with the Opposition MPs in Parliament, not as enemies, but opponents of different ideas and policies. We can be cordial and even joke around outside the hall and yet in the hall, we debate as fiercely as we want.

My next posting will be on the controversial IPCMC Bill which was debated today.

Meet The Fresh Faces of P104

Good morning from Parliament. First day of the end of year budget session. Parliament will sit from today to 5th December! This is a very long session and is also the most important of the year. Last year, I have decided not to speak much on the budget. When I was in the Opposition, I usually give 5 to 10 speeches during budget. Last year, I gave only two. I gave a long broad policy budget speech and also one on palm oil. I deliberately did so because I felt it will be unfair to critique the then relatively inexperienced ministers.

This session, with the ministers having settled into their office, it is now time to put some pressure on them. Also in view of the recent troubling political developments, it is now time to actively and constructively speak in Parliament.

As such, I intend to debate on as many ministries as possible in this session. I have also many diplomatic meetings in Parliament and PAC work. So it will be a very busy session. As such I will also be scaling down my weekend community activities for the next 2 to 3 months as my officers prepare for full on legislative work.

Today, we started our proceedings with a minute of silence of prayer and contemplation for the passing of HRH Sultan Ismail Petra of Kelantan and YB Dr Farid of Tanjung Piai.

Attached is the picture of day one, with Alethea my new officer (former intern) and my new interns Marcus and Eun.