SAPP: Be transparent on SEDIA and SDC
KOTA KINABALU, March
18, 2009: Former State Assistant Finance Minister, Melanie Chia today
questioned the veracity of the series of claims made by the State
Government over the progress of the Sabah Development Corridor (SDC) that,
since its launch in January 2008 it had successfully attracted and
implemented a number of projects to the tune of several billions ringgit.
"How come we have not heard of or notice any open tenders being called
for these projects?" she questioned.
Besides this, she again questioned the immunity given to the Board of
Sabah Economic Development and Investment Authority (SEDIA). The Sabah
Economic Development and Investment Authority Enactment 2009 was passed in
the State Legislative Assembly in January 2009.
Melanie who is also the Luyang State Assemblywoman cum Women Chief of
Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) thus urged the State Government to be more
transparent in its dealings in SEDIA and SDC, in order to prevent any
manipulation or misused of government funds.
She urged this while responding to the recent revelation made by the
Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi in Parliament that the
Federal government had allocated RM2.376 billion to SDC for it to carry
out its 54 main projects.
Abdullah also revealed that as of January 31 of this year, SDC had
implemented 28% or 15% of its projects, RM549 million worth of
She claimed that feedback gathered from the business and industrial
community, and the general public in the State revealed that they were
rather unclear and therefore skeptical of the concept and development of
SDC and how this would benefit the people in the State.
"When we touched on the 54 projects, a majority of the public was
apparently completely ignorant of them and, neither were they optimistic
about the benefit that these projects would bring them. Obviously, they
were confused as to how or based on what criteria the Government
determined such projects and, how many of these projects would really and
directly benefit the rakyat. Their focus are how the people and the State
will benefit!", she noted.
She continued that business community in the State, those in the
construction industry especially, were rather disappointed with the
non-disclosure of the list of SDC projects, as well as the non-tendering
of the projects via open tenders.
"By right, any project that exceeds tens of millions must be awarded
through open tender. Many contractors in the State had complained that
they didnít have a chance to tender for any projects in the past and
neither now with the Sabah Development Corridor which, they claimed was
meant for those with the right connection to the powers-that-be. Hence,
how could this possibly benefit the rakyat then?" she contended.
She cited that under a non-transparent approach, every single ringgit
of an allocation could subject to abuse that it could either end up as
political funds, commissions for the middleman or kickbacks for those
responsible for awarding the projects.
Hence, by the time the people get to enjoy the allocation, it probably had
been reduced to 20sen.
"Only when these projects are awarded through an open tender system
that the government can truly prevent wastage and manipulation of public
funds and, subsequently bring about true benefit to the people at large."
She thus demanded the State Government to make public the full list of
the SDC projects and how they were awarded and to whom, stressing that SDC
was supposed to benefit the people of Sabah at large, and not a privileged
few of individuals, groups or areas.
Melanie also recalled that she had during the last State Legislative
Assembly sitting raised the issue on the granting of immunity against suit
and legal proceedings to the State Economic Development and Investment
Authority which, she spoke against as it was improper. Further, the
Authority is also vested with too much power and citing the popular adage
of "power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely".
She was of the opinion that the dealings of SEDIA should not in anyway
be determined by just a group of individuals.
"Which country in the world gives blank cheques to those in power to use
or abuse without having to face any consequences?" she asked.
She contended if all the dealings are conducted in a transparent and
accountable manner according to the rules and regulations, one should not
be afraid of being monitored and scrutinized.