Malaysia's anti-graft agency to probe Sabah VIPs' involvement in water dept officials' alleged graft

KOTA KINABALU (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) is investigating possible links between Sabah VIPs and the Water Department officials who had allegedly amassed over RM114 million (S$38 million) though kickbacks and the abuse of power.

MACC sources, however, said that it was still premature to say if there were any links between VIPs and the director and deputy director of the state Water Department who might have been operating on their own.

Even Foreign Minister Anifah Aman had to step in to put an end to the speculation linking the graft case to Kimanis Umno and himself.

"It is preposterous and false. Umno Kimanis and I are not in anyway implicated in the case under investigation. Let MACC do their job fairly and properly without interference," Datuk Seri Anifah, who is also Kimanis MP, said in a statement.

He also threatened to take action if the defamatory statements continued to be published.

The alleged Kimanis Umno links immediately surfaced as both the director and his deputy director were locals from the Beaufort and Kimanis area of Membakut with many falsely claiming in an online post that the water director was a treasurer of Kimanis Umno.

In an earlier statement on Friday (Oct 7), Sabah Infrastructure Development Minister Joseph Pairin Kitingan also said that RM3.3 billion worth of federal projects allocated since 2010 were done during the time of former Rural and Regional Development Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal, who was dropped in 2015.

He the state government had nothing to do with the federal allocations as it was directly channelled to the state water department from the Rural and Regional Development Ministry.

"I understand that this particular RM3.3 billion worth of federal projects allocated since 2010 is under the Rural and Regional Development Ministry, which my ministry does not handle," Tan Sri Pairin said in a second statement issued on Friday.

Mr Pairin, whose state-level ministry also oversees the state water department, said the allocations were directly channelled to the department as the implementing agency without his ministry's knowledge.

Mr Pairin said the procurement of the projects as well as the payments were handled by the Federal-level ministry and the state water department.

"In light of this development, my ministry will study and propose an appropriate reporting system, which will put the ministry in the loop," he said.

He said that his ministry would provide full assistance to the MACC.

He also said he was saddened by the incident.

Mr Pairinsaid he hoped that the two officers would be able to explain themselves to the investigators, adding that they have yet to be officially briefed on the actions by MACC.

"It is sad to read in the newspapers and to know that two of my top officers have been taken in for questioning by the MACC,'' he said in his statement.

He said that he had been advised by his officers (his ministry's permanent secretary as well the state secretary) to wait for an official report for any further developments.

"Certain (administrative) procedures may have to be activated,'' he said in apparent reference to civil service regulations that civil servants would be suspended if they were charged in court pending the outcome of their trial.

"In the meantime, we can be comforted by the law which states that a person is presumed innocent until otherwise," he added.

Meanwhile, MACC continued recording statements of another 11 witnesses from the Water Department and related contractors.