24 October 2007

Agency: Price of screwdrivers fair, but not others

The Star

PUTRAJAYA: The Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA) has cleared all parties involved in the procurement of the screwdrivers that were allegedly made at inflated prices by the National Youth Skills Institute (IKBN).

The ACA, however, has detained four people in connection with the purchase of three digital cameras, deemed to be bought at an unreasonable price and not following specifications.

The Auditor-General's Report for 2006 cited these items among those bought at inflated prices by the Youth and Sports Ministry for the IKBN.

The Auditor-General said the ministry paid RM8.39mil more than the market price for the items, including RM224 for a set of four screwdrivers (costing RM32 in the market).

The ministry also paid RM5.72mil for two crane towers (against the market price of RM2.98mil), technical books comprising 17 titles priced at RM10,700 and three units of 3.1 mega pixel digital camera that were bought at RM8,254 each.

ACA director-general Datuk Ahmad Said Hamdan said the supplier of the Draper screwdrivers took into account that they were imported and came with a guarantee of authenticity and quality.

“Our survey from other suppliers showed that Draper screwdrivers, of different sizes, were imported with a guarantee of between RM20 and RM40 for each screwdriver, depending on the currency exchange at the time of purchase.

“The price is thus reasonable, taking into the account the costs of bringing in the screwdrivers and the assurance of quality,” he told reporters at his office here yesterday.

He said the agency found the price of the screwdrivers reasonable, “considering that these screwdrivers were not those manufactured in China”.

“We are scrutinising this case and will submit a report on this to the department involved later,” he added.

However, said Ahmad Said, there were irregularities involved in the purchase of the technical books, the digital cameras and other items by IKBN.

“For the technical books, the supplier sold the 17 sets at RM10,700 each while the A-G Report indicated the actual price to be RM417 per set.

“Our survey showed that books, with those same titles, should cost between RM50 and RM150 each and the entire set should be around RM500 to RM1,500.

“The price quoted by the supplier was thus too high and unreasonable, causing the Government to suffer losses,” he said.

The ACA has detained four people in connection with the camera purchase and was recommending that at least five senior ministry officers face disciplinary action for carrying out their duties without considering the implication on their department and the Government.

ACA checks showed that those involved had gone on overseas trips without permission from the Government and accepted various “entertainments” from the company.

“Six others are still under investigation. We are continuing with our probe to prove element of criminality and the case will be referred to the Attorney-General’s office,” added Ahmad Said.

The A-G's Report has so far led to 10 people being hauled to the courts to face various corruption offences. At least five senior civil servants are facing disciplinary action.

The ACA would also ask for a company involved in the renovation of some government quarters in Penang to be blacklisted and a government technician to be penalised for making false declarations.

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