Saturday, May 7, 2011

Why public funds used to defend Tricubes: BN stands for Binasa Nasional

May 06, 2011
Jala’s agency commissioned double-page advertorials on the MyEmail project in major newspapers today. — file pice
KUALA LUMPUR, May 6 — Pakatan Rakyat (PR) today demanded the government explain why public funds were spent to buy newspaper advertorials defending the 1 Malaysia email project when it was a private initiative.
A two-page advertorial headlined “Truths and Lies about MyEmail” by the Performance Management & Delivery Unit (Pemandu) on the controversial project was published in major newspapers today.
“If it’s a private initiative, then obviously advertisements and [efforts] pushing for its use should be done by the private company, instead of the government,” Shah Alam MP Khalid Samad told The Malaysian Insider today.
“If it’s private, (there) shouldn’t be anything (that’s) spent by the government. To me, it’s propaganda,” the PAS central political bureau member added.
Khalid said Tricubes ought to be the ones promoting its own project. — file pic
DAP publicity chief Tony Pua similarly denounced Pemandu’s advertorial.
“I think it has come to a really silly stage where the government is spending tens of thousands in advertorials to defend a so-called private initiative because ‘Pemandu believes in integrity and transparency’,” said Pua.
“If that’s really the case, then just disclose the request for proposal (RFP) documents from the government as well as the full contract terms and letter of award given to Tricubes. Publish them online and save the tens of thousands of tax-payers’ money,” the Petaling Jaya Utara MP added.
Pemandu refused to divulge the cost of the advertorial when questioned by The Malaysian Insider today.
“We have answered your question... I have nothing to add,” Pemandu corporate communication chief Ku Kok Peng told The Malaysian Insider on the phone.
Pemandu also emailed a statement to The Malaysian Insider and said it commissioned the advertorials to “make sure that the general public is not misinformed by people who distort the truth.”
In the advertorial, Pemandu CEO Senator Datuk Seri Idris Jala said Tricubes Bhd would invest 100 per cent of the RM50 million MyEmail project that was conceptualised as an Entry Point Project (EPP) under the Economic Transformation Programme (ETP).
Jala also stressed that the government “will not spend a single sen” in the project’s investment and operating costs.
“On the other hand, it is estimated that the government stands to save at least RM200 million over 10 years,” he said.
He explained that government agencies would make savings of almost 50 per cent by paying 50 sen per email to accounts, as government agencies currently paid up to RM1 per mail and RM2 for each returned hardcopy correspondence.
Pua pointed out government agencies should instead encourage the public to register their own email accounts.
“Now you’re paying 50 sen to someone else to send it [electronically]. Why not send it to (email) addresses provided by people and save the entire RM1?” asked Pua.
Pua said the 50 sen per email charge can be avoided entirely. — file pic
Lembah Pantai MP Nurul Izzah Anwar agreed that Tricubes should be the one promoting the project, instead of Pemandu.
“Pemandu has had a horrible track record with regards to disclosing accurate information about their ongoing initiatives. Smells of rotten bailout if you ask me,” said Nurul Izzah in a text message to The Malaysian Insider.
Pua also questioned why the government conducted a selection process if the project was merely a private initiative.
“If it’s completely private, [they] don’t need to go through Pemandu or Mampu (Malaysian Administrative Modernisation and Management Planning Unit). Just go to the government department and sell their services,” said Pua.
Jala said today that the selection process was an assessment to find out which company would likely succeed in rolling out the email service.
“Other parties who are not selected or did not submit a proposal earlier can still pursue the opportunity if they see a viable business case for it,” said Jala.
The Malaysian Insider reported last month that several firms were invited to bid for the 1 Malaysia email project last November and demonstrate an eventual 100 per cent take-up rate for the service.
Jala said the project’s KPI to get a 100 per cent take-up rate for those above 18-years-old by 2015 was set by Tricubes itself.
“Tricubes has put a KPI of 100 per cent sign-up as a target and aspiration, though it is voluntary. There is nothing to prevent businesses from putting stretched targets,” said the Pemandu CEO.
He also stressed that the government would not bail out financially-troubled Tricubes should its business fail.
Detractors have questioned why Tricubes, at risk of being delisted after its weak financial standing triggered Bursa Malaysia Securities’ Guidance Note 3 (GN3) in October last year, was tapped to spearhead the project.
“Mampu and GITN’s (Government Integrated Telecommunications Network) selection criteria were best-in-practice technology, sustainable business model, track record and security. Mampu and GITN adjudged that Tricubes met or surpassed these benchmarks,” said Idris.
“They have also clarified with Bursa Malaysia that a GN3 status can affect Tricubes’ listing status, but the company is not prevented from conducting business as usual,” he added.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said recently that the project will have a gross national income (GNI) impact of RM39 million up to 2015 and allow direct and secure communications between Malaysian citizens and the government.
But critics say the government should focus on infrastructure projects  such as providing clean water or broadband across the country rather than a free email service which is already available through other providers.

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