BY BORNEOTODAY TEAM
KOTA KINABALU – It would be ‘low pressure’ at the Sabah Water Department in the days to come; following the arrests of another 19 senior staff on Wednesday by the Malaysian Anti Corruption Commission (MACC).
The fresh suspects under remand are the division and district heads from throughout Sabah who are alleged to have received up to 30 per cent in kickbacks for projects handled through them
The Sabah Water Department has nine Divisions statewide and a total of 30 district offices are handled by the Divisional Engineers.
Although MACC deputy chief commissioner (operations) Datuk Azam Baki confirmed the arrests of the suspects, aged between 29 and 59, he was tight with further information.
“The Water Department is nearly crippled with these arrests,” said a source familiar with the operations of the department. “Most of the top guys are under remand.”
The position of director, left vacant due to the suspension of Ag Tahir Ag Talib, was filled up Thursday with the appointment of Ir Wilis @ Mojiron bin Ansoi, who was serving as a deputy director in the Public Works Department.
The appointment was announced by State Secretary, Tan Sri Sukarti Wakiman in a brief statement late Thursday.
It said that the 58-year old Wilis, has an engineering degree from Universiti Malaya, begins work at the water department officially on Friday.
The source went on to say that morale at the department was at the lowest and staff went about their duties without putting in much effort.
“Everyone is affected by the recent episodes. Most of the staff (at headquarters) have been grilled and others are waiting for their turn. It could come anytime.”
Apart from the two senior officers who are now out on bail, and the more recent arrests, MACC also recovered about RM1 million which was turned in by three senior staff while under investigation.
The source said that more arrests can be expected.
Some 14 of the new arrests on Thursday were remanded for seven days at the Kota Kinabalu magistrate court, three for four days at the Tawau magistrate court, and one for seven days at the Sandakan magistrate court.
Another suspect was remanded by the Lahad Datu magistrate court at about 6.30pm Thursday.
According to Azam in an official media statement, MACC also seized RM4.2 million in cash from several of the suspects.
“The MACC also froze RM3.6 million in several bank accounts belonging to several other suspects,” Azam said in the statement, adding the operation which was carried out simultaneously on 27 locations.
The divisional and district engineers were arrested for their suspected involvement in taking kickbacks of between 27 to 30 percent from the contracts awarded by the department at their level.
In the statement, Azam also stressed that ongoing investigations were only focused on government officials “who received bribes and abused their powers” and “for now it does not involve any politician at state or federal level”.
Azam also called on all quarters not to politicise the case or to take advantage of the investigations to pursue their own interests.
He also called on members of the public who have information on the scandal to come forward and cooperate in the MACC investigation.
The director and deputy director of the department are alleged to have awarded federal projects given to the department to 38 proxy companies.
More than RM52 million in cash were seized from the director and his deputy, along with jewellery, luxury cars, land titles and foreign currency, and later, RM30 million in foreign bank accounts.
However, there have yet to be any charges in court. Both officials are now out on bail and have been suspended from all duties.