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Friday, June 25, 2010

Sabah contractors and UMS on a warpath

The battle for the RM1-billion Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) project contracts is about to turn nasty as USM is in danger of being dragged through the mud over the way it doles them out.

Local contractors, who have been sidelined by a dubious arrangement between UMS and a company owned by an employee, have made known their grievances.

They are planning to take the matter a step further after the university authorities dismissed their complaints.

UMS yesterday denied allegations by local contractors that one of its employees was the owner of the company that has a stranglehold on projects being tendered out by the university.

Vice-chancellor Kamaruzaman Ampon said an internal investigation conducted following the allegation found nothing amiss.

"This is a serious allegation. After carrying out our internal auditing, we have found that the allegation is baseless," said Kamaruzaman.

He described the allegation that the USM officer was also operating a company that is undertaking projects for UMS as "untrue".

"The officer concerned resigned from the company before joining us, so there is no conflict of interest as reported in the papers recently," added Kamaruzaman.

The local contractors, many of whom are close to the government and Sabah Umno, however, dismissed the vice-chancellor's claim.

Two of them said they had found out that the officer concerned has a 70% stake in the private consultancy company, which has a contract with UMS.

According to one contractor, a check with the Companies Commission of Malaysia on June 16 revealed that the UMS employee was still the majority shareholder of the company.

Kamaruzaman said the employee in question is a contract officer, adding that UMS' central board committee is authorised to find contractors to carry it out all projects within the university.

"I do not understand why such matter was brought up by these contractors as they have been awarded projects (in the university), too.

"We have done our internal audit and a special task force was also set up to carry out a thorough investigation into the case.

"We will know the truth once their investigation is over. If there is any hanky-panky in the university, we will take action," he said.

MACC looking into allegations

Kamaruzaman said the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) had also visited UMS following the allegations and UMS had given its full cooperation.

"This whole issue has caused a minor distraction but it will not detract us from our core business (providing education).

"I will be meeting the Higher Education Minister (Mohamed Khaled Nordin) to brief him on the progress of the investigation," he said.

The controversy came to light after several local contractors alleged that a senior UMS official, who was tasked with monitoring the implementation of the projects, also owned a private consultancy firm doing contract works for the university.

Contractors said this was a clearcut case of a conflict of interest and had put them at a disadvantage.

Meanwhile, a check with the Social Security Organisation found that despite what Kamaruzaman's preliminary investigation has revealed, contributions were still made to the officer by the company in 2009 and 2010.

State minister in charge of education affairs in Sabah, Masidi Manjun, has also stepped in, saying UMS should "assure the public that every decision made in respect of any tender exercise is above-board and done in compliance with existing financial procedures".

He said UMS should make public the results of its investigation.

courtesy of FMT

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