The RM500 million national service training programme next year should be a model of integrity, accountability and transparency – Najib should give proper accounting for the multi-million ringgit contracts for computer programme to select the 85,000 trainees and national service uniforms
by Lim Kit Siang
(Penang, Sunday): It is most regrettable that the government is rushing headlong to implement the compulsory national service training programme early next year, despite widespread calls for a reconsideration into various aspects of the programme, including the reasons for the failure of the 11-year education system to instill the values of national unity, patriotism and discipline and whether the professed objectives of the three-month programme could not be achieved by other better ways, such as the compulsory enlistment of all students in a totally revamped scheme of uniformed service units in the final two years of secondary schooling.
Defence Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak announced on Thursday that the three-month National Service training programme will start off in February next year involving 85,000 boys and girls who will attend training staggered over three batches at 45 camps nationwide.
Najib, who is also Cabinet Committee on National Service Programme chairman, said the National Registration Department had traced 478,850 boys and girls, born in 1986, who would be eligible for the programme next year. They include 419,000 youths from government and private schools, while the rest are those who have stopped schooling or are working.
Owing to various constraints, only 85,000 will be selected via computer in December for the pioneer national service training programme, which will be split into three batches throughout next year so as to minimise disrupting their studies or work.
Najib announced that the selection process had been delegated to a private company, which has designed a software and intelligent computer ballot system which would provide for the balanced composition of race, gender and the State they were from.
Najib’s announcement has highlighted another important aspect of the national service training programme, the need for full integrity, accountability and transparency in the RM500 million expenditure for the introduction of the national service training for 85,000 youths next year to ensure that every sen is properly and honestly spent and fully accounted for.
The most recent of a long catalogue of government scandals to rock the country was the RM140 million East Coast school computer laboratory fiasco and scandal where construction was not only behind schedule by two years, but 574 of the 600 computer laboratories built were not safe and in danger of collapse.
DAP does not want the RM500 million national service training programme next year to degenerate into another nest of scandals and Parliament when it reconvenes early next month should demand iron-clad assurances and guarantees of the fullest integrity, accountability and transparency for every sen of its expenditure.
One reason the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad had given for the RM762 million school computer laboratory scandal for the whole country was because the government was “trying to meet the requests of the Malay contractors” and provide them with opportunities under the school lab construction project.
Mahathir said: “We gave the job to the main contractor so that the contractor can give to smaller contractors. I was told that the contract was sold to another person, and this person sold it to another and it went on. By the time the fifth person got it, the contract’s value will drop and in order to make profit, this contractor will have to cut cost. Then he will buy hollowed wood, the cement mixture is affected and now you get buildings collapsing.” (The Star 24.7.03)
A person familiar with Malay sub-contracting has given me the following scenario: Each school lab project is worth about RM150,000 (excluding computers) where the profit margin is about 20 per cent of the contract, or RM30,000. If in the chain of sub-contracting, the main contractor retains 30 per cent of the profit or RM9,000; the first sub-contractor also 30 per cent of the profit, i.e. another RM9,000; while the second and third sub-contractors keep 15 per cent of the profit each of RM4,500; the fifth person who has to actually construct the project would only get 10 per cent of the profit or RM3,000 while doing all the donkey’s work of putting up the RM150,000 school computer lab, resulting in 574 of the 600 computer laboratories built in the East Coast not safe and in danger of collapse!
This system of “piratisation” is merely spawning a useless class of parasites which exploits their names and influence to win contracts and sub-contracts without performing any useful social or economic function, but worse, as they are positively a curse to society and nation in creating the very conditions for corruption and all forms of malpractices and abuses of power.
If the government wants to override strong and legitimate grounds for deferring the launch of the national service training programme, the taxpayers must insist that the RM500 million national service training programme next year should be a model of integrity, accountability and transparency for all public projects.
For a start, there are two things Najib should do:
Firstly, to reveal the identity of the private company which had been given the contract to design and implement the computer programme to select 85,000 18-year-olds for the national service training programme next year, whether there had been an open tender, the value and full details of the contract.
Secondly, to give full details about the award of the multi-million ringgit contract for the uniform contract for 100,000 recruits for the national service training programme next year.
A few days ago, I received an email alleging gross impropriety in the award of the uniform contract for the 85,000 national service boys and girls, which run into tens of millions of ringgit.
Malaysians do not want any whiff of scandal in the RM500 million national service training programme, whether in a variation of the school computer laboratory scandal of a project spawning layer after layer of “parasites” in having it sub-contracted out several times until the final sub-contractor had to cut cost and cheat on the project just for survival or improper or absence of a honest tendering process.
Recently, Najib joined in the public chorus of Ministerial speeches declaring that there will be no compromise in the war against corruption.
Is Najib prepared to go beyond sweet-sounding words to manifest his commitment to a system of integrity by making the expenditure of the RM500 million national service training programme next year a model of integrity, accountability and transparency, starting by giving a public accounting of the contracts for the computer programme to select the national service trainees and the national service uniforms?
* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman