He told Parliament that Mitsui and Co. was not in the list of nine companies that bid for the switchboard contract in an open tender advertised on Jan 18, 1991 and closed on April 23, 1991, giving Members of Parliament, the media and the nation the immediate conclusion that there was grave "hanky panky" Telekom or Finance Ministry when a company which did not take part in an open tender exercise could still be awarded the contract through the backdoor.
This was why my first reaction yesterday was to demand to know why Leo Moggie had withheld information from Parliament as to why Mitsui, which allegedly paid RM10.6 million in kickbacks to Telekom Malaysia, was awarded the Telekom switchboard contract although it was not among the nine companies which took part in the open tender.
I also wanted Moggie to make a more fulsome and frank statement on the Telekom switchboard contract, such as the identity of the nine companies which took part in the open tender, their respective quotations, how Mitsui came into the picture and details of its bid.
In an apparent immediate response to my media statement yesterday, Moggie called a media conference to clarify that Mitsui and Co. was never awarded the switchboard contract, later telling reporters at the Parliament lobby that everything appeared to be normal with the deal "on the surface".
He said: "The company did not even bid for it, so the question of awarding the contract to it does not arise. Mitsui is not even a manufacturer of switchboards."
How could Moggie make such a monumental blunder as to be so ecnomical with his explanation and accounting to Parliament as to give MPs, the media and the nation the impression that Mitsui had been awarded the switchboard contract although it was not one of the nine companies which participated in the open tender, when what he meant was the simple and straightforward statement that Mitsui and Co. was never awarded the switchboard contract as alleged in the Asahi Shimbun allegation.
The reason why nobody thought about the second possibility of Moggie’s cryptic explanation was obvious - that if Mitsui was never involved in any manner in the switchboard contract, then the Asahi Shimbun allegation of RM10.6 million kickbacks to Telekom Malaysia could never stand, and Moggie would have come out with a direct denial of the allegation and there would be no need for the Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA) to waste its time to conduct any investigation or Telekom Malaysia to conduct its own internal investigation into the allegation.
I am amazed that a senior Cabinet Minister like Leo Moggie, who is the second-longest serving Minister with 22 years’ experience after the Prime Minister, could make such a colossal bungle and blunder in Parliament.
Moggie had either wanted to mislead Parliament on the issue with his cryptic explanation or at best extremely careless in giving information on the allegation of the RM10.6 million Mitsui kickbacks to Telekom Malaysia, and his parliamentary bungle and blunder is a classic example as to how a Minister or Deputy Minister should not respond to MPs’ demands for accountability on controversial issues.
From the drips of information let out by Moggie, it is obvious that it is not that clearcut that Mitsui and Co. was completely uninvolved in the allegation of RM10.6 million kickback to Telekom Malaysia over the switchboards contract that the allegation could be dismissed with a straightforward denial.
Mitsui in a statement yesterday in denying paying kickbacks to Telekom Malaysia did not either deny that it had been involved in the switchboards contract or that it had been penalised and fined by the Tokyo Regional Taxation Bureau. Asahi Shimbun reported that the fines and penalties were for failing to report the kickbacks which were originally booked as losses although Mitsui claimed merely that "Although there was a difference of opinion with tax authorities, our company ultimately paid the tax in accordance with the conclusion by the authorities".
In fact, if Moggie had read the Asahi Shimbun report of 11th February 2000, he would have found that it stated right from the beginning Mitsui and Co. had not directly bid for the switchboard contract but "In a syndicate with the high-tech giant NEC Corp., Mitsui landed orders from Telecom Malaysia in late 1996 for the switchboards with a total capacity of about 800,000 circuits" and that "The Japanese syndicate won the deal, estimated at more than 10 billion yen, by outdoing a number of European rival bids".
This has now been corroborated by the Mitsui admission yesterday that it had made the bid for the switchboard contract during the open tender through a subsidiary in Malaysia and that the subsidiary was a joint venture with NEC Corp.
Moggie himself said yesterday that five companies which won the switchboard supply contract in 1992 were Pernas NEC, Perwira Ericsson, Alcatel CIT, Marubeni Corporation and Sapura Holdings - and there is no reason that the Minister is still not aware that Pernas NEC made the bid with equipment supplier, NEC Japan. This is another black mark for Moggie.
What is deplorable about Moggie’s monumental bungle and blunder in Parliament is that he has given the impression, both nationally and internationally, that he is trying to conceal rather than reveal the full facts and background about the switchboard contract.
It is most regrettable that the attempt by the DAP MP for Bukit Mertajam, Chong Eng to move an amendment to the Royal Address debate motion was rejected by the Speaker, Tun Zahir Ismail, in utter disregard of Parliamentary Standing Orders - which can only reinforce questions as to why the government is so afraid to allow the glare of parliamentary scrutiny to be focussed on the allegation by having a full debate on the issue.
It is sad that Barisan Nasional MPs have again demonstrated that they continue to be "blind, deaf and dumb" on issues of corruption and public integrity as in the past four decades of Parliament, with not a single one of them standing up in in the Royal Address debate to demand full accountability on the Mitsui kickbacks to Telekom Malaysia allegation.
Moggie should redeem himself after his monumental parliamentary bungle
and blunder and he should give support to a parliamentary motion
to get to the bottom of the Mitsui kickbacks allegation by