Lessons for Mara Corp from Prasarana chairman Tajuddin’s bold approach

It was a no holds barred press conference by Prasarana chairman Datuk Seri Tajuddin Abdul Rahman this evening.

He was obviously incensed and in no mood to be nice about the disturbing situation although it seemed a reckless approach at times.

The Pasir Salak MP explained and answered questions at Level 20 in Menara UOA, Bangsar, as Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission officers were going through documents in their probe against Prasarana – a government-owned corporate body under the Finance Ministry.

Prasarana and Tajuddin have been in the limelight mainly over three issues:

  • the suspension of the company’s president and chief executive officer Muhammad Nizam Alias on Nov 27, 2020.
  • claims that Prasarana withheld payments to LRT3 contractors MRCB-George Kent Sdn Bhd (MRCB-GK).
  • accusations that Tajuddin has a vested interest in a development project in Dang Wangi, Kuala Lumpur.

While Tajuddin’s answers may have “shocked” some, he saw the need to address the allegations.

This is in contrast to Mara Corp which has remained silent since Twentytwo13 first reported about the suspension of its group CEO, Datuk Badlisyah Abdul Ghani.

It was also reported then that former Labuan MP and Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia Labuan chief Datuk Suhaili Abdul Rahman had been appointed Mara Corp executive director and chairman of the executive committee board – pending approval from the Mara Council and Mara Crop board of directors.

Yet, the silence from Mara Corp is deafening. And the company could take the cue from Tajuddin.

Lesson 1: Don’t be afraid of the press

Who would organise a press conference while anti-graft officers were still in the office, investigating its chairman and other key personnel? Prasarana, or specifically Tajuddin, did so!

The timing of the visit is indeed interesting, especially when it is understood attempts were made to ensure Tajuddin did not meet the press.

But Tajuddin didn’t back down. In fact, he gave the press a choice: either he start talking or that the reporters ask questions and he would answer them. It was agreed that he get the ball rolling.

And he said a lot, with certain bits that may have caught lawyers present at the press conference off guard.

Lesson 2: Be mindful of what you say

No one likes boring, diplomatic answers. People just want to hear the truth. But in Tajuddin’s case, he raised eyebrows with certain comments. Here are some examples:

On Nizam’s suspension

“I would expect him to be professional … it has gone too far, to play the game in (the) media … to attack Prasarana and me.”

“Untunglah, don’t need to work (but) still get paid.”

Is Tajuddin implying that Nizam leaked information to the media or orchestrated what had appeared in the press? Also, Tajuddin failed to explain the details that led to Nizam’s suspension, claiming it is an “internal matter not to be discussed to the public.”

On claims that MRCB-GK have yet to receive payment from Prasarana

“I’ve received complaints from contractors … till today they have not signed any agreement with MRCB-GK. The values of the contracts were lessened so that they (MRCB-GK) could get the job done at a cheaper cost. When they are not fair, how can I keep quiet? I don’t want to be like the previous board … They are the turnkey contractor but have no capital.

“They have no money to pay their subcontractors and they ask them to complain … If a contractor has been awarded a project by us, they (MRCB-GK) have to raise the capital. Their paid-up capital is RM10 million but they got a RM11 billion contract; don’t know how they were awarded the contract. If you want to do business but you don’t have the capital, then susah-lah.”

Is Tajuddin calling MRCB-GK a cheapskate and financially unfit for the project?

On Prasarana’s finances

“Our revenue is insufficient for our operations, capital expenditure. We are depending on government bonds and rely on government for equity injection. We have to manage our cash flow. We need RM300 million a month for our operating expenses (opex) and capital expenditures (capex) … I urge the turnkey contractor to have their own funding, they have to.”

Is this an admission that Prasarana has a cash flow problem?

Lesson 3: Let the professionals speak

Tajuddin spoke throughout the whole press conference despite being flanked by several professionals from Prasarana. Wanting to be polite, they all kept mum.

They should have instead taken the opportunity to address their concerns, professionally, although they may have dreaded facing the press.

Tajuddin also said he was not afraid of anyone, either the shareholders or even Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin regarding the issue.

“I’m a very strong man. Why shouldn’t they (shareholders) support me? I support the government, so far lah.

“The government couldn’t push through the Budget (2021) if I didn’t support it. Jangan main-main. That’s why I’m not afraid.

“Even if the prime minister wants to talk to me, I’m not afraid because the budget was approved with our support … 111 against 108.”

Tajuddin also admitted about his family’s interest in Detik Utuh Sdn Bhd, a company linked to the Latitud 8 project in Dang Wangi but highlighted that the project was won through an open tender eight years ago, when he was not in the government but serving as Felcra Bhd chairman.

He also said the Prasarana board has yet to make a decision regarding the project, rubbishing allegations that he had asked for the deal to be terminated and for the board to approve a RM80 million compensation.

Mara Corp should learn from this and not make the same mistake. The last thing they need is for a politician (or a politician wannabe) to steal the limelight.

View KiniTV for the video of the press conference.