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Sunday, January 12, 2014

Procurement controversies -- Selangor State, Malaysia

Loopholes in government contracting mechanism — Sin Chew Daily
The chief contractor responsible for cleaning of government hospitals in Selangor, Radicare (M) Sdn Bhd, has apparently breached the contract regulations. The shortage of cleaners in Klang, Kajang, Selayang and Banting Hospitals has resulted in poor hospital hygiene conditions. Two operating theaters in Kajang Hospital have to be temporarily closed while non-urgent surgeries have to be postponed due to difficulty in maintaining the hygiene at these operating theatres. It is shocking to find that several hospitals are facing the same problem at the same time.

The Health Ministry must take stern action against Radicare to warn other contractors. In addition, since Radicare was appointed and contracted by the Health Ministry, the ministry should also be blamed for the incapability of Radicare to perform the contract, affecting the normal operation of hospitals. Also, the Selangor state government should also make a review for its lax oversight, as maintaining healthcare quality and ensuring the safety and hygiene of patients and the public is a shared responsible of the Health Ministry and state government.

The problem originated from the drawbacks in the government’s contract bidding mechanism. For instance, contractors are appointed without going through the process of bidding; contract conditions do not adequately protect the interests of the government; and the government’s inability to assess and compare the qualities of contractors. Contractors’ poor quality and lack of integrity would not only drag the administrative progress of government agencies, but also harm the people’s interests.

On the other hand, after signing a contract with the government, the appointed contractor is allowed to hire its own sub-contractors to handle the project or job. Such a practice makes it easy to have poor supervision and loopholes. The Health Ministry has appointed three companies to take care of the non-clinical support services of healthcare establishments in the country tasked with the responsibility of maintaining the cleanliness of state government hospitals. Radicare, one of the contractors, has actually hired incapable sub-contractor for the job and thus, led to the cleaner shortage problem.

Taking it as a lesson, the government will need to draw a transparent and more professional contract bidding mechanism to ensure that all contractors are good in quality, as well as integrity. The public’s demand for transparency in government operations, including the request of open tender for government contracts, has increased, and some "Ali Baba" contractors who gained government contracts through relations instead of open tender will only undermine the government’s credibility.

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