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Probe into biofeed project

2009. 22 July

by Loong Meng Yee
( A company which successfully obtained a controversial contract from the Tourism Ministry is being investigated for another multi-million ringgit deal involving another ministry.

Venturepharm Asia Sdn Bhd, which got a RM19mil contract to construct Malaysia’s pavilion at the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai, is being probed by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) over a Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry grant to develop poultry feed known as biofeed.

It is understood that part of the grant, totalling RM5.4mil, has been paid to the company but the ministry stopped further payment when the commission began investigations.

Deputy Minister Fadillah Yusof, when contacted, confirmed the ministry had frozen payment as well as other dealings with the company pending the investigations.

In June, Wangsa Maju MP Wee Choo Keong asked in the Dewan Rakyat why the ministry approved the company’s grant application under its Technofund project when Venturepharm did not have any track record in biotechnology.

Replying to the question in writing, minister Datuk Dr Maximus Ongkili had said a project monitoring team would record each milestone achieved by the company and part-payment of the grant was released accordingly.

“The company has fulfilled all suggestions for improvements recommended by the monitoring team,” he said.

On the Malaysian pavillion contract, Wee yesterday questioned the awarding of the contract to Venturepharm.

Wee claimed in his blog that Venturepharm did not have any experience in the field.

He also claimed that the company did not participate in the first tender which was held on March 13 when the ministry was under Datuk Seri Azalina Othman.

“A second tender was called on May 13 when Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen took over. This time, Venturepharm participated and got the contract despite not being the cheapest,” he said.

Wee said he would present documents to the commission to substantiate his claims.

In Shanghai, Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen said the tender process for the pavilion contract was done in a transparent and accountable manner by the Finance Ministry and Tourism Malaysia.

She said the design for the pavilion submitted by the companies involved in the initial tender were not consistent with the theme of the expo.

“We wanted something modern yet reflected Malaysia’s traditional and unique culture and brought out the quality of life of Malaysians,” she said.

Dr Ng said she was not involved in the tender board’s decision.

She said that one of the consideration of the board was that the cost of the project must not exceed RM20mil.