RM1.5 Billion Siphoned Off Projects Meant To Aid The Poor

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KOTA KINABALU: More than 60 companies are being investigated in relation to the mishandling of federal-funded projects to benefit rural folk in Sabah.

Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) deputy chief commissioner (operations) Datuk Seri Azam Baki said the probe had estimated that RM1.5 billion was mishandled from the RM7.5 billion allocated for projects for the past six years, between 2010 and 2015.

“Let us check how much is actually involved. We estimate that it is RM1.5 billion, but it is probably a little more than that.

“As for the companies, we are in the midst of interviewing some and locating others. Some are probably already closed, so we need to do a lot of work, deploying officers to search for witnesses, and all that,” he said after the commission’s briefing on the case development at the Sabah MACC office here, which was attended by MACC Chief Commissioner Tan Sri Zulkifli Ahmad.

Azam said the investigation was triggered following the Sabah Water Department scandal, which was uncovered last year.

Three individuals were arrested, including Parti Warisan Sabah vice-president Datuk Peter Anthony.

The investigations were focused on projects related to basic amenities, such as clean water supply, electricity and road links, which might not be properly executed, involving elements of corruption.

The New Straits Times had exposed that MACC was investigating the embezzlement of government funds in an exclusive report on Wednesday.

The newspaper revealed that the graftbusters were investigating a number of companies, along with several senior officials of a ministry, for siphoning off no less than RM100 million meant for initiatives and programmes for the rakyat, including the hardcore poor.

On whether Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal will be called in as he was former rural and regional development minister, Azam said: “I don’t want to comment on any personality here.

“Whoever we think can assist in our investigations will be called. And, we will arrest anybody who is a suspect in this case.”

When asked if it was a norm for federal-funded projects to not go through state governments, he said: “Normally for federal projects, they will appoint their own contractors, but they, of course, follow their own procedures in appointing the contractors.

“For this case, we received public tip-off following the Sabah water scandal. We have our own whistle-blowers. They came forward and told MACC about irregularities in rural projects,” he said.

Zulkifli, meanwhile, said investigations were proceeding smoothly.