Former rural and regional development minister Shafie Apdal has passed the buck on the tender awarding process in relation to the Sabah water scandal to the Ministry of Finance (MOF).

Shafie recounted in the Dewan Rakyat today how, after the scandal was exposed late last year, there were rumours that he was involved in the case, as the former rural and regional development minister.

However, Shafie pointed out, only the Finance Ministry can make decisions in the three tender awarding processes – open, selective and direct.

“The tender process is made and represented by the Water Department, Works Department and the Finance Ministry.

“No single ministry can directly make a tender award without the approval from MOF,” Shafie pointed out.

The country’s finance minister is Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak.

In the case that involved MACC’s biggest cash haul so far, a former Sabah Water Department director and two others were charged in a money laundering case involving hundreds of millions of ringgit.

On Dec 29 last year, former Sabah Water Department director Ag Mohd Tahir Mohd Talib, 54, pleaded not guilty to eight counts of possessing RM56.9 million in cash and in four bank accounts, two charges of unlawful possession of six luxury vehicles and another charge for the unlawful possession of 86 branded wrist watches.

Ag Mohd Tahir also pleaded not guilty, together with his wife Fauziah Piut, 51, to two counts of unlawful possession of jewellery, while Fauziah was charged with another 19 offences for unlawful possession of jewellery and luxury bags, as well as a total of RM2.2 million in various bank accounts.

Another accused, Sabah Finance Ministry technical and engineering adviser Lim Lam Beng, 62, who has been suspended from the post, was charged with unlawful possession of a vehicle and three counts of possessing a total of RM2.38 million in cash.

The trio were charged under Section 4 of the Anti-Money-Laundering, Anti-Terrorism Financing and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities Act 2001, which carries a fine of up to RM5 million or up to five years’ imprisonment, or both, on each charge upon conviction.

Earlier, Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Razali Ibrahim had answered Siti Mariah Mahmud (Amanah-Kota Raja, photo), who had asked for the status of the investigation into the Sabah Water Department case.

Confirming that MACC’s investigations into the case were still going on, Razali said most of the investigations have been completed.

Siti Mariah then raised an additional question on the source of the hundreds of millions of ringgit that have been laundered and asked about the loopholes that needed to be rectified.

Razali in his response admitted that this was among the “biggest cases” in the country’s history.

“While collecting information, we have learned about several loopholes and we are working together with the Sabah Water Department to rectify these loopholes that led to a huge amount of money being siphoned in the last few years,” he said.

Shafie, meanwhile, questioned why the case was not classified as corruption and instead placed under money laundering.
Apart from this, Shafie also wanted to know why Sabah Water Department deputy director Teo Chee Keong – whom he said was directly involved in the case – was not charged.

Razali said one of the offences could be regarded under criminal breach of trust and that disciplinary action could also be taken in certain instances. Other offences, too, could involve instances of corruption, he confirmed.

“After MACC investigates the case, we will present the investigation papers to the attorney-general using the Penal Code, or maybe the MACC Act, depending on the information received,” he said.

As for Teo, Razali explained that with 200 more witnesses to be called to provide evidence in the case, the matter would be left to the authorities concerned to be dealt with under the laws.

– M’kini