Mother Of All Scandals: 60 Percent Of Funds For Sabah Water Siphoned

Federal funds for water projects in Sabah have been siphoned out by unscrupulous people, including top Water Department officers.
Federal funds for water projects in Sabah have been siphoned out by unscrupulous people, including top Water Department officers.

KOTA KINABALU – There seemed to be an unprecedented scale of corruption involving the siphoning of federal allocations amounting to RM3.3bil for water projects in Sabah since 2010.

The Star reported that only 40 per cent of the federal allocations for water reached the ground in Sabah, and the rest of the money seemed to have been pocketed by individuals.

Sixty sen out of every ringgit allocated by the Federal Government for water projects was siphoned off into the pockets of many individuals.

Quoting a senior state government official who has knowledge of developments in the investigations involving the two senior Sabah Water Department officers, the report it is believed the tender process was fixed so that proxy companies would get the project at inflated prices.

Water Department director, Ag Tahir Talib, left, and deputy director, Teo Chee Kong.
Water Department director, Ag Tahir Talib, left, and deputy director, Teo Chee Kong.

In many cases, the projects were broken up into smaller parcels of up to RM100,000 to avoid the tender process. The director or his deputy can sign off projects below RM100,000.

On Tuesday, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) has arrested Sabah Water Department director Ag Tahir Ag Talib, 54, and his deputy Teo Chee Kong, 52, and seized over RM115mil, including some RM57mil in cash, from their houses and office.

Two others, including Teo’s older brother – a 55-year-old businessman – and his accountant have been arrested since Tuesday for investigations into what is possibly the country’s biggest abuse of power, bribery and money laundering case.

MACC deputy chief commissioner (operations) Datuk Azam Baki has confirmed that there are 38 companies owned by family and friends of the two detained civil servants.

It is learnt that 17 of the companies were connected to the director while 21 were linked to his deputy. These companies are said to have been used as fronts to take part in limited tenders to secure the projects.

There are still many areas in Sabah where the people do not have piped water. There may be water treatment plants, but the people cannot afford the measely RM1,560 to install a tap at their premises, yet there are those with ill-gained millions in their homes.
There are still many areas in Sabah where the people do not have piped water. There may be water treatment plants, but the people cannot afford the measly RM1,560 to install a tap at their premises, yet there are those with ill-gained millions in their homes.

This has been happening over the last five years with the amount adding up, sources explained, but declined to reveal the specific details of the projects.

MACC sources said they had identified 40 witnesses, mainly state Water Department officials involved in processing the contracts and contractors, to have their statements recorded.

They are also getting the director and his deputy to declare all their assets under Section 36 of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Act 2009 as investigators want to obtain comprehensive details of their wealth.

The Jabatan Air Kota Kinabalu office at Taman Gaya, Penampang Road.
The Jabatan Air Kota Kinabalu office at Taman Gaya, Penampang Road, where people usually go to pay bills.

So far, MACC has recovered some RM57mil in cash found from their offices, homes and safe boxes, frozen RM60mil in bank accounts of the duo including that of a company they were linked to.

They also seized 19.3kg of gold jewellery worth about RM3.64mil from the duo, and some 97 designer ladies handbags worth RM500,000 used by the director’s wife.
They also recovered some 127 land titles from Teo.

MACC is also working to repatriate funds banked into an account in a neighbouring country.