News | Zahid extended firm’s contract without consulting govt officers, court told

SHAH ALAM: Home ministry officers were in the dark over Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s decision to extend the contract of Ultra Kirana Sdn Bhd, a senior government officer told former deputy prime minister’s foreign visa system corruption trial.

Suriani Ahmad, who served as deputy secretary-general from 2015 to 2017, said there were no discussions between officers in the policy and enforcement division and Zahid, after the contractor made the request for extension through a letter dated Oct 17, 2016.

“The home minister (Zahid) instructed the then secretary-general (Alwi Ibrahim) to extend the contract of Ultra Kirana without consulting us,” she told the High Court.

Suriani said she received Ultra Kirana’s letter, with Zahid’s written note, saying that he did not have any objection to the extension of the contract for three years until 2022.

The court heard that the contract for Ultra Kirana to manage the foreign visa system initially ran from Nov 1, 2013 to Oct 31, 2019.

Suriani added, “Alwi told me to execute the deputy prime minister’s instructions quickly. In the deputy prime minister’s written note, he said there was no need to refer the three-year extension to the Cabinet and Ukas (the Prime Minister’s Office’s public private partnership unit)”.

Deputy public prosecutor Wan Shaharuddin Wan Ladin pointed out to the witness that Ultra Kirana sent the application letter for the contract on Oct 17, 2016 and Zahid approved the extension the following day.

“Can you conduct any review of Ultra Kirana’s services within 24 hours, in order to come to a decision if the government should extend the contract?” he asked.

Suriani, who is now secretary-general of the entrepreneur development and cooperatives ministry, said they would not be able to do so.

“He was the deputy prime minister. He may have met a lot of people out there to whom I do not have access and would have his reasons. As a public servant, I complied with his decision,” she added.

During cross-examination by Zahid’s lawyer Ahmad Zaidi Zainal, Suriani agreed with the defence’s suggestion that under the terms of the contract, the government and Ultra Kirana would share the profits from the visa processing fees.

“I don’t know how much the government would be paid under this profit sharing system,” she said.

Suriani also agreed with Zaidi’s suggestion that the foreign visa system had reduced the workload of attaché officers in Malaysian consulate offices across China.

The hearing continues before Judge Mohd Yazid Mustafa on Oct 22. – FMT

by Ho Kit Yen

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