Since its change in government, Malaysia has seen a number of high-level, much publicised development projects get postponed or cancelled for various reasons. Among them are the suspicion of inflated costs, while another reason given for the cancellation was that the government, simply and plainly, did not have the money to fork over and pay for these contracts.
Which makes you wonder a couple of things:
- How did the exorbitant cost of these projects go unchecked?
- Why did certain parties sign up to fund a major project that they could not afford?
Part of the answer to that lies in procurement. This unique role is tasked with the acquisition of goods, material, and services for a particular project, and involves all sorts of details from price negotiation to determining the standards of the development. When it comes to the civil service, this is known as public procurement. Think of procurement as the bodyguard of a famous celebrity: Nobody passes through without being vetted by them.
The reason that procurement is so crucial, especially in the public sector, is not only due to the high costs of investment, but also the stakes at hand. Major developmental projects, such as the extension of a public transport system, or schools, or highways which connect rural and urban areas, all have repercussions in larger society, and these are just a few examples:
- Materials purchased for a connecting bridge were cheaper and below industry standards compared to what was quoted, which compromises the integrity of the bridge and makes it prone to structural issues
- Cleaning contractors for public parks receive payment for services not rendered, resulting in deteriorating public spaces
- The bidding for a public transport project is won by a disreputable developer through political connections, resulting in a subpar project costing taxpayers billions of ringgit.
The possibilities are endless, of course, and we’ve all heard tale of some company or other being hoodwinked into spending more than it should on a project that later cost them with its inadequacies. And while even the world’s best-developed framework to prevent corruption in procurement can’t stop it from happening still, there are more feasible alternatives to ensure that your organisation doesn’t make headlines for the wrong reason.
Screening employees hired for more sensitive and politically vulnerable positions is common practice in many industries, and its necessity in every sector, both public and private, cannot be overemphasised. If procurement is the company’s bodyguard, then it stands to reason that it is also a position that cannot be susceptible to being bought over by outside parties. By regularly screening for errant behaviour and other problematic patterns, you can ensure that your bodyguard never leaves you vulnerable to attack.
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