Since retiring from the military service in 1998, I have had several opportunities to work with friends in business that was all alien to me, simply because the military does not teach us to become businessman The remuneration offered is no big deal. But in the process of working, I learnt and saw a lot of what the business world is all about.
If I were to say that the military vocation is stressful, the business world has its own stresses too. Making money for the company is the bottom line in business, but in the case of the military, winning the war is the core business. The military is not concern where the money comes from, for as long as they get the tools to fight.
Today, I have several retired military friends who have gone into business; either as partners or on their own. Some have become rich, and some are still struggling to meet ends. The more senior ones have been appointed Chairmen and Directors of companies (public listed and non public listed), and with some reaping considerable allowances and benefits.
Recently, I met an old friend who last served the naval service in a senior capacity. He too had joined up with a local and foreign companies to package a specialized naval related services; a business proposal that he is technically proficient at.
During the conversation that ensued, he related to me at how difficult it was for him to penetrate the Ministry of Defence as it is a being ‘cartel-controlled’ fitted with a solid and invisible ‘no entry barrier'. Being a retired senior navy staff and knowing the procurement process, he patiently waited for the ministry to tender out the services as in all fairness, it is the government's order of the day. Tender process has always been what he wanted, simply because there are only a few companies in the world that are capable to deliver, and it will provide the end user the option to choose the best, meeting service requirements and at competitive pricing.
Having waited for several months, he was informed that a particular service provider has been called to conduct direct negotiation without tender being called. He was also informed that the price quoted by this particular service provider is few times more than that of other competitors. Upon checking, it was revealed that the services are beyond the core business of the service provider, but nevertheless being specially selected.
What I have tried to describe above, I am told is simply nothing new, and has been a norm in the ministry where jobs that costs millions are offered at the whim of the senior civilian officer. I certainly smell a skunk in this deal, and isn't the senior civilian officer in contravention to rules and regulations that disallows direct negotiations where there are several bidders. And aren’t direct negotiations constitute elements of corrupt practices and abuse of power?
The experience that my retired friend has gone through with the Ministry of Defence is certainly one that is bitter. It is not the question of his proposal being eliminated from the evaluation process, but it is about NOT being given the opportunity at all. There is absolutely no transparency in the procurement process, and the right to make the important decision for the Services seems to be in the hands of this all powerful senior civilian officer. I don't believe that the end user is being fully consulted, or it is too technical for him to understand, but find it easy to justify for direct negotiation.
Is there any option? Will Malaysian Anti Corruption Commission (MACC) take on the case if my poor friend makes a report?. A test case.
CRUSADE AGAINST CORRUPTION
Posted at 1.20am Jan 19, 2009