Another government department, seriously? Beef up the existing enforcement agencies !


YET another government department is going to be set up. Isn’t it common knowledge that the Government has serious budget constraints and is not recruiting to add to an already bloated civil service? And now, another tale of bureaucracy is being spun.

No wonder Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission chief commissioner Tan Sri Dzulkifli Ahmad is upset over the planned formation of the National Integrity and Good Governance Department (JITN)

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Paul Low has said the proposed department is expected to improve good governance in the civil service.

How would the JITN as a new and probably tiny department be able to do the job? It would probably involve plenty of miracles since there is a reported 1.6 million civil servants to deal with, although Cuepacs says the figure is only at 500,000. It will be a Herculean task to move this mountain of manpower for what’s needed.

Low must surely have good intentions in wanting to set up the JITN, but its objectives and plans remain, at best, vague, at this point.

Its name and role seem almost identical to that of the Integrity Institute of Malaysia (IIM) and Enforcement Agency Integrity Commission.

The IIM, the brainchild of then Prime Minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, was set up in 2004 and continues to function.

Its website reads: “IIM’s role is to facilitate the aims and objectives of the National Integrity Plan (NIP). The main objective of IIM is to act as a machinery in the implementation of the NIP towards developing a nation that is of high integrity, resilient and that embraces universal good values.”

The key roles of the institute are: to conduct research related to the integrity of institutions and that of the community; to organise conferences, seminars and forums; to elicit opinions from various sectors on the progress made or on the obstacles faced in implementing integrity; to publish and circulate printed materials as well as formulating and implementing training and educational programmes; to recommend new policies for the enhancement of integrity and ethics; and to advise the Government on strategies and programmes in enhancing integrity.

The voice of cynicism is growing loud and people are questioning the functions of this department, more so if it has no bite. MACC has strongly objected to it, with Dzulkifli labelling it a waste of public funds.

Who can blame the graft buster for being disgruntled? His investigators are overworked and the department understaffed, under budget and now, suddenly, the MACC learns that a new department is to be set up.

If it has no powers and does not concern the MACC, then it is on its way to being another government department which publishes more reports that nobody reads and which will most likely end up gathering dust.

Dzulkifli, who is hard-pressed to secure a heftier budget for his department, has publicly objected to the setting up of JITN, saying the funds could be better used to enhance current enforcement agencies and the wellbeing of its staff.

“What needs to be done is improve and strengthen the laws, human resources and welfare of existing agencies.

“The Government should oversee the welfare of law enforcers. Go and see the conditions of police barracks. They are poorly maintained,” he said.

Dzulkifli urged the Government to re-examine the salaries and housing schemes of law enforcers.

“If we want to decrease corruption and abuse of power in enforcement agencies, the problem will not be solved if law enforcers do not have their welfare taken care of.

“I will defend them (law enforcers) when needed, and take action against them (if they do wrong).

“But we also need to see the state of their welfare,” he told reporters at a corruption-free pledge signing ceremony in Sungai Petani recently.

“Forming a new department will be costly and require hiring new staff. Their scope of duties will be similar to (that of) other law enforcers,” he added.

And even in less-than-ideal circumstances, the MACC has continued with its crime-busting duty, its stats backing up its hard work. Up to last month this year alone, the commission has arrested 728 individuals, including 349 civil servants, 215 members of the public and 151 from the private sector.

So far, 316 people have been accused of corrupt practices this year. Nearly half of them – 155 individuals – are from the civil service. Last year, only 113 civil servants had the long arm of the law catch up with them.

MACC statistics reveal that 1,629 cases (up to last month this year) involved civil servants, compared to 2,008 the whole of last year, with 654 cases concerning members of the public and 174 involving those from the private sector.

Until September this year, 432 investigation papers were opened against civil servants, compared to 526 last year. Half of that figure – 215 – implicated members of the public, 102 members of the private sector, and seven from other categories, including politics.

Up until last month, 756 investigation papers were opened.

Low said the Cabinet has given the green light for the setting-up of JITN to serve as a coordinating body to lead transformational changes in the public and private sectors.

He said the department would focus on good governance, integrity and human rights. How it will co-exist with Suhakam (Human Rights Commission of Malaysia) is something which needs explaining.

JITN received the Cabinet’s nod on July 28, and is currently under review by the Public Service Department pending final approval. The department was previously a division under Low in the Prime Minister’s Department.

There isn’t much the MACC can do now since the Cabinet has already approved the move.

But what the Government should consider doing is to beef up the MACC where manpower and resources are concerned, given the flurry of cases flying its way.

By Wong Chun Wai The Star

Wong Chun Wai began his career as a journalist in Penang, and has served The Star for over 27 years in various capacities and roles. He is now the group’s managing director/chief executive officer and formerly the group chief editor.

On The Beat made its debut on Feb 23 1997 and Chun Wai has penned the column weekly without a break, except for the occasional press holiday when the paper was not published. In May 2011, a compilation of selected articles of On The Beat was published as a book and launched in conjunction with his 50th birthday. Chun Wai also comments on current issues in The Star.
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Graft-busting to expand after Selangor Unisel deal and Penang cases


MACC raids Unisel, MBI and contractor’s office … – The Sun Daily

MACC officers conducting raids on University Selangor, Shah Alam on Aug 22, 2017. — Sunpix by Zulfadhli Zaki

 KUALA LUMPUR: After Penang and Selangor, more states can expect to come under the scrutiny of graft-busters.

“It has been ‘hot’ these days. What other states after this? Let’s wait and see,” hinted Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) chief commissioner Datuk Dzulkifli Ahmad during his speech at the launch of a play, Bahara Emas, which will be held from October to December nationwide in conjunction with the commission’s 50th anniversary.

He said more arrests and charges against the corrupt would take place from now until the end of the year, adding that the days were numbered for those still blinded by material possessions and money.

On allegations that the MACC’s actions on certain parties were “planned”, Dzulkifli stressed that they were not biased in their investigations.

“We don’t choose our targets. Whoever it is, whether they are politicians, civil servants or corporate figures, we will take action.

“Once a report is received and we have determined that it has a strong basis, we will carry out raids and seize documents.

“Once there is enough evidence, only then will we make arrests,” he said, adding that proper planning must be done before his officers moved in “at the right time”.

Earlier in his speech, Dzulkifli revealed his inspiration to make weekly arrests came from a 2015 Indian action movie called Gabbar Is Back, depicting the protagonist’s mission to rid corrupt officials.

“We want to empower the people to stand up and say no to corruption.

“Why? Because the MACC is here with you.

“We are the people’s voice and machinery,” he said.

Citing a case in Penang which caused pollution and another in Pahang over illegal bauxite mining, Dzulkifli said these cases happened due to issues of corruption and abuse of power.

He pointed out that those greatly affected by corruption were the people and not the ones in power, which was why “the MACC is here to carry out a probe”.

By Royce Tan The Star

MACC probes Unisel campus

 

 

 

 

SHAH ALAM: The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) is currently conducting a raid at Universiti Selangor (Unisel) in Section 7 here.

Six uniformed officers from the national anti-graft body arrived at the campus here at 9.50am on Tuesday in two separate vehicles.

Upon entering the campus’ administrative building, the officers were greeted by staff members who brought them up to the offices.

The MACC is simultaneously raiding four other offices of Unisel, Mentri Besar Incorporated (MBI) and Jana Niaga Sdn Bhd offices in connection with the case.

Several uniformed officers from the MACC going in to the Unisel main campus’ administration office at 11.10am.

Uniformed MACC officers were also at the Unisel main campus in Bestari Jaya.

They are currently conducting a raid at the university’s administration office which is located inside the library building.

Three officers, meanwhile, arrived at the Mentri Besar Incorporated (MBI) office at Bangunan Darul Ehsan, in Shah Alam to conduct a raid.

In KUALA LUMPUR, anti-graft officers are raiding a Jana Niaga office on Jalan 4/76C.

Four officers arrived at 10.25am in a vehicle with heavily tinted windows to conduct the raid.

It is believed the MACC is acting on a report lodged with it against Selangor Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Azmin Ali and MBI over a dispute between Unisel and its contractor Jana Niaga.

It had been reported that Jana Niaga allegedly received monetary compensation and a new contract from Unisel, despite failing to complete a previous contract.

Source: The Star by danial albakri, m. kumar, andallison lai

Commission raids Unisel, MBI and contractor’s premises to investigate RM16mil payment

//players.brightcove.net/4405352761001/default_default/index.html?videoId=5547980550001

SHAH ALAM: The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) carried out simultaneous raids on five locations in Selangor and Kuala Lumpur in its probe of RM16mil allegedly paid by a Selangor government-owned company to a private firm for maintenance work.

The places raided included the Universiti Selangor (Unisel) main campus and office, two offices belonging to the contractor – Jana Niaga Sdn Bhd – and the Menteri Besar Selangor Incorporated (MBI) office.

In all, officers took away 10 boxes and one suitcase filled with documents relating to the payment made by MBI to Jana Niaga for maintenance work of student accommodations at the Unisel main campus in Bestari Jaya.

MACC officers leaving the Jana Niaga office in Desa Pandan after the raid. Jana Niaga was responsible for maintenance work on student accommodations at the Unisel main campus in Bestari Jaya.

Sources said MBI had allegedly made the payment to Jana Niaga via two transactions of RM10mil and RM6mil in 2015 and 2016 respectively.

Initial reports received by MACC showed that MBI had paid Jana Niaga even though its contract had been terminated by Unisel.

The sources added that the MACC probe focused on the reasons why the payments were made even though Jana Niaga had failed to fulfil the contract agreement for the work done in Unisel in 2012.

MACC director of investigations Datuk Simi Abd Ghani said the investigating teams seized documents related to the case from the different locations.

“We’re still in the early stage of our investigations and we will gather strong and sufficient evidence before we proceed,” he added.

MACC officers raided the Unisel main campus in Bestari Jaya and office here, Jana Niaga’s offices in Desa Pandan and Bestari Jaya, and MBI’s office in Bangunan Darul Ehsan here.

At the MBI office, five MACC officers started their inspection at 10.45am and left at 5.50pm with a medium-sized suitcase and a box filled with documents.

Four boxes of documents were taken from the Unisel Treasurer’s office in Section 7 here at 4.30pm after the officers spent nearly seven hours there.

Other MACC officers also went to the Unisel main campus in Bestari Jaya, Kuala Selangor, and left with three boxes of documents at 4.50pm.

A Unisel spokesman said it would give its fullest cooperation to the MACC investigation.

In Kuala Lumpur, four uniformed officers went to Jana Niaga’s office in Jalan 4/76C in Desa Pandan at 10.25am and left carrying two large boxes of documents at 4.26pm.

When approached, one of the officers said the documents were from 2011 onwards. – The Star

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NGO alleges abuse of power by MBPP councillors


GEORGE TOWN: A non-governmental organisation has lodged a report with the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) against two Penang Island City Council (MBPP) councillors for alleged abuse of power.

Persatuan Surplus Pulau Pinang chairman Sophian Mohd Zain urged the commission to probe the matter thoroughly.

He said the first case involved councillor Sharuddin Shariff who lives in a public housing unit in Sungai Pinang despite receiving a monthly allowance of RM4,000 from the council.

“This is not right at all,” he said before lodging the report accompanied by former MBPP councillor Syazwani Mohd Amin.

Sophian also lodged another report against councillor Azrizal Tahir whom he alleged held two state-appointed posts.

He said Azrizal as a councillor should not have held the Village and Security Development Committee (JKKK) post and receive allowances from both positions.

When contacted, Azrizal urged the complainant not to trouble the MACC by asking them to probe cases with no basis.

He said those who lodge such reports should do their homework first.

“A press conference will be arranged to explain the matter soon,” he said briefly.

Source: Edmund Lee newsdesk@thesundaily.com


MACC reports filed against PKR duo

GEORGE TOWN: Two PKR’s Penang Island city councillors have denied any wrongdoings as alleged by two non-governmental organisations which lodged reports with the state anti-graft body.

One of them, a four-term councillor, said there were no rules or regulations to prevent a councillor from becoming a village development and security committee (JKKK) chairman.

“But under a state policy which was enforced last year, we were advised not to hold the two positions at the same time.

“I have since let go of my JKKK post. I urge the complainants to check with the district office first and not to hurl baseless allegations against us,” he said when contacted.

Earlier, two NGOs – Persatuan Kebajikan Surplus Pulau Pinang and Kota – lodged reports with the Penang MACC over the alleged wrongdoings of the two councillors in Jalan Sultan Ahmad Shah yesterday.

Persatuan Kebajikan Surplus chairman Sophian Mohd Zain claimed one councillor was the JKKK chairman of Permatang Damar Laut.

“A councillor receives allowance from the local government while a JKKK post is appointed by the state government. This is a conflict of interest.

“We hope the state government will clear the air in the name of CAT (Competency, Accountability and Transparency),” he said.

Also present was former councillor Noor Syazwani Md Amin, who was terminated from her post in April.

Sophian also claimed that a first-term councillor still had a People’s Housing Programme (PPR) flat in Sungai Pinang despite having an allowance of RM4,000.

The maximum eligible household monthly income for a PPR applicant is RM2,500.

A councillor is entitled up to RM1,200 in allowances for attending meetings and a RM300 mobile phone subsidy.

“How could he still be holding the key to a PPR flat for a RM100 monthly rental? The PPR flats are meant for the poor.

“The councillors are the policy makers in the local government while the PPR flats are under the purview of the council.

“I don’t think the council staff would dare to act against the councillors,” he added.

Sophian hoped the MACC would investigate the matter.

The said councillor could not be reached for comment.

Source: by Tan Sin Chow he Star

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Arrest linked to illegal operation of carbon filter factory in Bukit Mertajam

For 10 years, a factory has been illegally burning sawdust to produce carbon for filters, forcing villagers and schoolchildren in parts of Bukit Mertajam to breathe dust-laden smoke every day. The matter has now flared up with the arrest of Penang exco man Phee Boon Poh and two of the factory’s directors by the MACC. All three are set to be remanded today.

GEORGE TOWN: An illegal carbon filter processing factory has become a burning issue in Penang with the arrest of state executive councillor Phee Boon Poh and two factory di­­rectors by graft-busters from the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commis­­sion (MACC).

All three are expected to be remanded today.

The factory in Kampung Sungai Lembu in Bukit Mertajam was in the news on Wednesday when MACC officers raided its premises and seized several documents.

Yesterday, a team of five MACC officers raided Phee’s office at Level 53 in Komtar at about 11.30am and took away more documents.

Phee, who chairs the state Wel­­fare, Caring Society and Envi­­ron­­ment Committee, was asked to report to the Penang MACC headquarters in Jalan Sultan Ahmad Shah. He was arrested at 3.30pm when he turned up at the MACC building.

MACC deputy chief commissioner (operations) Datuk Azam Baki said Phee was detained under Section 23 of the MACC Act for abuse of power.

The section provides for a jail term of up to 20 years and a fine of up to five times the value of the bribe or RM10,000, whichever is higher.

The 66-year-old Phee was brought back to his house in Butterworth at about 5pm in his car and escorted by two MACC vehicles. It is learnt that he packed some personal be­­longings from his house before lea­­ving for the state MACC headquarters at 7.05pm.

The MACC also arrested a 70-year-old man and his 37-year-old son, the manager and director of the factory, at 6.05pm and 6.35pm respectively.

The two were summoned to the state MACC headquarters to give their statements before they were detained.

Lawyer R.S.N. Rayer, who accompanied Phee to the Penang MACC headquarters, said the exco man was asked to meet MACC officers after 2pm.

“I was informed that they (MACC officers) went to his office and took some documents including letters that he wrote. They wanted to re­­cord his statement regarding the documents.

“He gave his full cooperation and presented himself at the MACC office. I am surprised that he was arrested,” he said before leaving the state MACC building at about 4.30pm.

Earlier, the five MACC officers spent more than an hour in Phee’s office.

Shortly after they left, Phee and four assistants walked out of the office.

Phee declined to comment on the raid.

He is the second member of the current Penang state administration to be arrested by the MACC.

Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng was arrested in June last year over the purchase of a RM2.8mil bungalow in Pinhorn Road.

He was subsequently charged with using his position as the Chief Minister of Penang to gain gratification for himself and his wife, Betty Chew Gek Cheng, by approving the application for conversion of agriculture land to a public housing zone in south-west Penang to the com­­pany, Magnificient Emblem Sdn Bhd.

He allegedly committed the of­­fence while chairing the Penang State Planning Committee meeting at the operations room in the Komtar building on July 18, 2014.

The charge under Section 23 of the MACC Act 2009 provides for imprisonment of up to 20 years and a fine of up to five times the sum or value of the bribe, or RM10,000, whichever is higher, upon conviction.

Lim faces a second charge of using his position to obtain a plot of land and a bungalow located at No 25 Jalan Pinhorn, George Town, on July 28, 2015, from businesswoman Phang Li Koon for RM2.8mil, a price which he allegedly knew did not commensurate with the property’s market value at the time of RM4.27mil.

The charge, under Section 165 of the Penal Code, provides for a jail term of up to two years or a fine, or both, upon conviction.

Late last night, Lim was among several DAP leaders and members who turned up outside the state MACC headquarters to stage a candlelight vigil in support of Phee.

Source: The Star by crystal chiam shiying, chong kah yuan, lo tern chern, andlogeiswary thevadass

10 years of smoke in the eyes for villagers

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BUKIT MERTAJAM: For about 10 years now, the villagers of Kampung Sungai Lembu have been forced to breathe air laden with pollutants. Children going to school at SJK(C) Kampung Sungai Lembu also have had to put up with the thick dust.

The air is thick with a burning smell from the processing activities at an illegal carbon filter processing factory, just 1km away from the school.

The 5,000sq-m factory, about the size of a football field, has piles upon piles of sawdust, much of it burning in deep pits.

The tall chimneys spout white pollutant-filled smoke into the air which is carried to the nearby villages by the slight breeze.

A source from the Department of Environment revealed that the factory also did not have an air pollution control system.

Kampung Sungai Lembu Deve­lop­ment and Security Committee chairman Tan Sing Lee, 58, said the factory also carried out open burning of sawdust to produce carbon.

“Every time the wind blows our way especially in December, the air is polluted. At night, the air is foggy and villagers complain about the smell,” he said.

“We reported the matter to Penanti assemblyman Dr Norlela Ariffin but no action was taken in the past two years,” he said.

The factory is also situated inside an oil palm estate, on land designated for agriculture.

Tan claimed a man in his 30s died in 2015 after he fell into one of the pits while filling it with sawdust.

A check by The Star at the factory yesterday found 20 pits, each measuring about 3m across. The pits were filled with burning sawdust and there was smoke everywhere. The sawdust is burnt to produce carbon which is then used in filters.

Permatang Pauh Umno chief Da­­tuk Mohd Zaidi Mohd Said claimed there may have been people in­­volved in covering up the issue before the raid on the factory by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commis­­sion (MACC) on Thursday.

“Several reports have been lodged against the factory.

It is impossible for the Seberang Prai Municipal Council to not be aware of it,” he said during a press conference in Kampung Sungai Lembu.

Also present was Parti Cinta Malaysia deputy president Datuk Huan Cheng Guan.

PKR rep Norlela glad over action against illegal factory

 

BUKIT MERTAJAM: Penan­ti’s PKR assemblyman Dr Norlela Ariffin (pic) is pleased that action is finally being taken by the MACC over an illegal factory in Kampung Sungai Lembu.

Dr Norlela said she raised the issue of the carbon filter processing factory more than two years ago. “The villagers told me about their concerns in February 2015. I raised the matter at the state assembly sitting but no ac­­tion was taken for two years,” she said.

It was in November that Dr Norlela broke down and sobbed uncontrollably at the assembly, clai­­ming the state government had failed to respond to her queries.

She lamented then that she had complained of many woes like illegal factories, frequent flooding and the lack of infrastructure like roads and proper jetties for fishermen.

“Early this year, before the state assembly sitting, villagers handed me an 18-page petition, appealing for the factory to be closed as they claimed it was affecting their health.

“It was also found that the factory was not operating according to guide­­­­lines,” she said yesterday.

In May, her allocation was withheld after she did not show up at the Yang di-Pertua Negri’s swearing-in ceremony.

Earlier this month, she complained that funds collected for flood mitigation had not been used to help her constituents.

“In Penanti alone, there are nine flood-prone areas that could greatly benefit from these funds,” she re­­portedly said, citing the Auditor Ge­­­ne­­ral’s Report 2016 Series 1 which revealed that the Seberang Prai Municipal Council had only used RM2.2mil of RM63.39mil collected from 2008 to June 2016.

Dr Norlela is among several as­­sem­­blymen who have been at loggerheads with the state leadership, often criticising it for not carrying out its duties or for not caring about the environment,

Last month, she praised the Sungai Buloh-Kajang MRT project and took a swipe at the Penang Transport Master Plan by comparing the construction cost of both projects in a video she posted on social media.


DAP’s lone ranger faces his biggest test

GEORGE TOWN: Two-term Pe­­nang executive councillor Phee Boon Poh, 66, gained fame as a vocal opposition leader when he took on 38 Barisan Nasional representatives in the state assembly when he was the sole DAP assemblyman from 2004 until 2008.

Despite being overwhelmed, the “lone ranger” raised many issues.

Although PAS was represented by Mohd Hamdan Abdul Rahman, it was Phee who questioned the policies of the state administration headed by Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon.

Phee began his political career by winning the Bagan Jermal state seat in 1990, only to lose it to Barisan’s Tan Sri Dr Sak Cheng Lum in 1995.

In 1999, he contested the Sungai Puyu seat but lost to Barisan’s Loo Ah Dee. In 2004, he wrested it from Loo with a 607-vote majority.

In 2008, he retained his state seat with a 9,201-vote majority and was appointed state Welfare and Caring Society chairman.

He later took over the environment portfolio from state exco member Chow Kon Yeow.

In the 2013 general election, he beat MCA’s Sum Yoo Keong by 16,207 votes.

Phee is a distant relative of businesswoman Phang Li Koon, who has been charged with abetment in the two corruption cases against Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng.


MACC probes Phee’s letters – Directing council to ‘stay away’ under investigation

Phee Boon Poh mobbed by the media after he was remanded in George Town. — ZAINUDIN AHAD and ZHAFARAN NASIB/The Star

PENANG: The Malaysian Anti-Corrup­tion Commission (MACC) is investigating two letters, which appear to have originated from state executive councillor Phee Boon Poh, asking that no action be taken against an illegal factory.

The letters, written in 2015 and 2016, directed the Seberang Prai Municipal Council from shutting down the carbon filter-processing factory which had been operating illegally for the past 10 years.

The MACC is also investigating whether Phee or his officials had authorised the letters telling the council to back off.

As Phee and two of the company’s directors were remanded yesterday, the MACC is expected to call up a DAP state assemblyman for questioning.

The MACC is believed to be investigating the role of this state assemblyman in the case.

It is understood that MACC is also probing the relationship between Phee and the factory owners.

It wants to find out how the factory could operate openly despite complaints from the villagers nearby.

“The illegal factory is on an agro-based land. (We want to know) why it has been able to operate without any action (taken against it),” a source told Sunday Star.

 

Too close for comfort: The illegal carbon filter-processing factory still operating and its proximity to Kampung Sungai Lembu and surrounding areas near Bukit Mertajam. 

When contacted, MACC deputy chief commissioner (operations) Datuk Azam Baki said the anti-graft body will carry out a thorough probe and look into all angles.

Azam said investigations will focus on the element of abuse of power.

“We have opened an investigation paper under Section 23 of the MACC Act.

“We will look into whether one of the suspects has given (any form of) protection to the illegal factory to enable it to continue operating the last 10 years,” he said.

He declined to elaborate further as investigations were ongoing.

Sources said anti-graft officers revisited the house of the state exco member in Sungai Puyu on the mainland to look for more evidence to assist in the probe.

It is not immediately known if documents were seized.

The homes and offices of two other suspects will also be revisited as part of the probe.

More arrests are expected in the coming days as investigations into the case widen.

Source: The Star by simon khoo, crystal chiam shiying, lo tern chern, akil yunus

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Fake Awards Scam for Penang Island City Council, Seberang Perai Municipal Council !


Dubious honours: (Above) Former Penang Island City Council mayor Patahiyah Ismail with the trophy and certificate for Best Municipal Manager awards in 2013 while her Seberang Prai counterpart Maimunah (pictured here with the Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng and his aide Wong Hon Wai) received the same latter award in 2014

Penang local councils ‘fell for vanity awards scam’

GEORGE TOWN: Two European NGOs have exposed the European Business Assembly (EBA) which piled honours on Penang’s local councils as a vanity awards scam.

It is on a list of 10 organisations in Europe and China that hold elaborate ceremonies and create beautiful trophies to go with hundreds of awards.

“In many cases, those awards are bogus, sold by unscrupulous organisations that prey on hu­­man vanity,” the Center for Investigative Reporting of Serbia (CINS) and the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) researchers wrote in a 2014 report.

The report states that such organisations sent solicitation letters to companies and government agencies in the world, telling them that they had been nominated for various awards.

“Anyone who replies, shows interest and agrees to pay gets an award. Most of the letters contain the ceremony programme generally held in an attractive European capital, pictures of the trophies and information about costs,” the report added.

CINS was founded in 2007 by the Independent Journalists’ As­­so­­ciation of Serbia to support investigative journalism.

OCCRP comprises investigative reporters throughout Europe, Africa, Asia and Latin America.

The two local councils in Penang were left red-faced for getting EBA awards in 2013 and 2014.

The now retired Penang Island City Council (MBPP) mayor Datuk Patahiyah Ismail was awarded the Best Municipal Manager while the council was given the Best Municipality Award in 2013.

A year later, Seberang Prai Municipal Council got the Best City award while its then president Datuk Maimunah Mohd Sharif won the Best Municipal Manager award.

On Monday, it was reported that EBA was generating millions of pounds by selling fake Uni­ver­­sity of Oxford awards and cer­ti­ficates.

Pulau Betong assemblyman Da­­tuk Muhammad Farid Saad said he found many articles on­­line exposing EBA as a vanity awards organisation.

“Did they spend ratepayers’ money to get those honours? It’s like buying fake academic degrees,” he said in a statement.

Penang MCA secretary Tang Heap Seng said the state government should explain to the people whether it had purchased the awards to enhance its reputation.

In a statement, MBPP said it regretted that the awards were suspected of being false and had applied to the organiser to reaffirm the recognitions.

State Local Government Com­­mit­­tee chairman Chow Kon Yeow said he hoped both councils would be more discerning and careful in future.

Source: The Star/ANN by Tan Sin Chow

Councils: We won EBA awards after paying entry fees

Mayor: I apologise if accolade not genuine

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GEORGE TOWN: Two councils in Penang have admitted that they won the awards given by the Europe Business Assembly (EBA) without any assessment after paying a total of 7,800 euros (RM39,088) in entry fees.

Penang Island City Council (MBPP) mayor Datuk Maimunah Mohd Sharif said EBA did not send any auditor or judge to review the performances of the then Penang Municipal Council (MPPP) and Seberang Prai Municipal Council (MPSP).

“We received letters via email from EBA that we were nominated for the awards. We then corresponded on the matter.

“EBA stated their judging criteria in the letters which they would be basing their assessment on.

“As far as I know, they did not come and talk to us but assessed us (themselves),” Maimunah told reporters yesterday, adding that the MPPP and MPSP had paid £4,400 (RM20,680) and £3,400 (RM18,408.10) for the entry fees.

Maimunah, who just returned from a conference in Manila, was commenting on the EBA controversy which was reported as a vanity awards scam.

It was reported that in 2014, the Centre for Investigative Reporting of Serbia and the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project researchers had exposed the EBA for giving out the awards.

“If it is true that the award is not genuine, then I apologise. I wish to stress that the local councils do not have any intention to spend taxpayers’ money to buy any award or recognition from any group,” said Maimunah.

She said at that time, both MPPP and MPSP had considered the awards as a prestigious recognition based on the assessment criteria, which included economic environment, educational infrastructure, public services and transport, recreation and entertainment.

“The entry fee is a package inclusive of the participation cost for the conference. Both of us (Patahiyah and herself) went alone and we flew economy class although we were both entitled to business class.

“We did check on the awards but we did not receive any information which would have raised suspicions.

“There are other Malaysian local authorities, agencies, universities and individuals who have received the EBA awards before us.

“As such, the councils were of the opinion that the awards ceremony were worth joining,” she said.

Both councils, she said, were still waiting for a reply from EBA to clarify the matter.

Source: The Star by Chong Kah Yuan

MPSP to participate in awards despite ‘vanity awards’ controversy

BUKIT MERTAJAM: The Seberang Perai Municipal Council (MPSP) will continue to participate in international awards despite the controversy on so-called ‘vanity awards’ received by the council from the Europe Business Assembly (EBA).

The council’s newly appointed president Datuk Rozali Mohamud said they would continue to take part in international awards, but would heed the advice of state Local Government, Traffic Management and Flood Mitigation exco Chow Kon Yeow to be more cautious.

“Up to this moment, we have decided to take part in the Wego (World e-Governments Organisation of Cities and Local Governments).

“The awards are held annually, and it is free. We do not have to pay any entry fee,” he told reporters at a press conference.

On July 24, it was reported that the EBA was generating millions of pounds by selling fake University of Oxford awards and certificates.

Researchers from two NGOs wrote in a 2014 report that such organisations sent solicitation letters to companies and government agencies in the world, telling them that they had been nominated for various awards.

“Anyone who replies, shows interest and agrees to pay gets an award,” the report stated.

The now retired Penang Island City Council (MBPP) mayor Datuk Patahiyah Ismail was awarded the Best Municipal Manager award while the council was given the Best Municipality Award in 2013.

A year later, MPSP got the Best City award while its then president Datuk Maimunah Mohd Sharif won the Best Municipal Manager award. Maimunah is now MBPP mayor.

 

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Making the corrupt fear whistleblowers, not the other way !



WE ARE so used to seeing the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) on the frontlines in the war against corruption that we often forget the importance of whistleblowers. 

Graft-busters cannot be expected to single- handedly detect cases of corruption and abuse of  power because this requires surveillance capabilities that are impossibly expensive and intrusive. Instead, they typically rely on people channelling quality information on alleged offences so that the investigations can start.

Federal Land Development Authority chairman Tan Sri Shahrir Abdul Samad reminded us about this when he warned Felda employees, including its top management, that there were whistleblowers within the organisation who would report wrongdoing. – (Check: Shahrir backs Felda staff who expose wrongdoings)

Commenting on the MACC’s raid on Monday on Felda Investment Corporation Sdn Bhd over the purchase of a London hotel, Shahrir welcomed the probe as a “good development” and said he believed that the new leads received by the commission came from whistleblowers.

“I want to assure those who expose the corrupt practices within Felda that they will be protected,” Shahrir added.

That is an important message. People are reluctant to volunteer information on corrupt practices mainly because they believe there would be reprisals if it was made known to others that they had blown the whistle.

Employees worry about being treated poorly by bosses and colleagues. Businessmen risk losing customers and deals. And sometimes, the stakes are so high that a whistleblower may even have reason to fear for his life.

People need to be convinced that there is a better alternative to saying nothing about corrupt practices. First and foremost, a whistleblower wants to be sure that if he so chooses, his identity will be kept confidential.

This is why the Whistleblower Protection Act 2010 matters a lot.

It is described as an Act “to combat corruption and other wrong­doings”, showing that it has a central role in the fight against corruption. And yet, according to the MACC, few people have asked for protection under the Act.

In 2015, the commission received about 6,300 reports and complaints, but only 16 people sought (and were given) protection under the Act. In fact, between 2011 and 2015, 65 people were given such protection.

In its Annual Report 2015, the MACC said more individuals were writing in to give information on corrupt practices. In addition, the commission received fewer anonymous letters in 2015 than in the year before. The MACC said this showed rising public confidence in supplying information to the commission.

The commission also attributed the trend to its improved transparency in handling information from complainants.

But what about the low number of whistleblowers seeking protection under the Whistleblower Protection Act? Can it be that few people are aware that the Act can shield them from the fallout of whistleblowing?

The authorities should look into this. There has to be more awareness of how the Act works and this should then be used to encourage more people to come forward with information that can help the graft-busters.

The corrupt should be the ones fearing the whistleblowers and not the other way round.  – The Star

 

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Six simple steps to defend your data from ransomware


Ransomware blackmails Internet users by encrypting the files on their computer or mobile device and demanding payment, generally in the virtual currency bitcoin, to unlock them. — dpa

Recent ransomware attacks have rattled internet users around the world. This malicious software blackmails users by encrypting the files on their computer or mobile device and demanding payment, generally in the virtual currency bitcoin, to unlock them. But these six simple security measures can significantly reduce the risk of a computer being hit by an attack.


1. Regular updates
: Software updates for browsers and operating systems don’t just add new functions – they also install security patches to protect computers against the latest malicious software.

The German Federal Office for Information Security (BSI) recommends enabling automatic updates on a device and advises against the use of older operating systems such as Windows XP, for which Microsoft has stopped providing regular security updates.

Microsoft will also discontinue updates for the operating system’s successor, Windows Vista, this summer – all the more reason to replace it with a newer version.

2. Be vigilant: Don’t trust anyone, says nomoreransom.org, a website run by IT security companies and European law enforcement. Never open email attachments from suspicious accounts, don’t click on questionable links and don’t download unverified software.

Even emails from friends and co-workers should not necessarily be trusted. Before opening an attachment or clicking on a link, always take time to consider whether the sender’s online account could have been hacked or their computer software infiltrated by malicious software.

3. Antivirus software: Enable all the security applications in your operating system, advises the BSI. Reliable antivirus software can provide further protection, but must be kept up-to-date.

4. Back up data: Creating digital duplicates of your files can protect your personal information from disappearing forever. In the event of an attack, you can just transfer over your back-up files.

Windows (Backup and Restore) and MacOS (Time Machine) have in-built applications for backing up your data, but they might not be accessible in the event of an attack. A more secure option would be to save your files in an external device, such as a hard disk drive, solid-state drive, DVD, or in the cloud.

To reduce the risk of spreading viruses, only connect the external drive to a device during file transfers. As an extra precaution, save your data in two separate external hard drives.


5. Fight back
: If you happen to accidentally install malicious software or receive suspicious messages, immediately disconnect your device from the internet, instructs  nomoreransom.org. to be decrypted. This will prevent the infection from spreading.

You can then run a clean installation of your computer software, and transfer over your back-up files. For some types of ransomware, there are techniques to unlock the content on your computer.

The latest malware outbreak “Petya” can be stopped by creating the read-only filetype “C:\Windows\perfc.dat,” which prevents it from scrambling your files. An initial report on the antidote published on the site bleepingcomputer.com has since been confirm by several IT security companies.

6. Never pay: A blackmailer’s demands should never be met, says the State Office of Criminal Investigation (LKA) of Lower Saxony. There are several reasons for this, the LKA reports. First, even if you pay the ransom, there is no guarantee that you will regain access to your files.

Second, by paying the attacker, you are supporting the growth of a criminal industry. Every payment finances new attacks. In the case of the recent Petya outbreak, the payment system is useless, because only one email address was provided, which has since been shut down by the provider. — dpa

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Six simple steps to protect your data from ransomware

Six simple methods to save your information from ransomware http://www.techagentmedia.com/six-simple-methods-save-information-ransomware/ via @techagentmedia
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Malware, ransomware attacks are a growing threat to computer and mobile phone!
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