Wednesday, December 27, 2023

HR minister Sim starts with a bang, cancelling HRD’s ‘Skills Passport’

HR minister Sim starts with a bang, cancelling HRD’s ‘Skills Passport’

Human Resources Minister Steven Sim cancels HRD's Skills Passport. Image source: Business Today

by M.Krishnamoorthy
A media coach, adjunct professor and author

Newly appointed Human Resources Minister Steven Sim started with a bang, cleaning up messy deals and cancelling the controversial HRD Corp “Skills Passport”.

In cutting the financial commitment, complications and burden on the Government, Sim has directed the ministry NOT to proceed with HRD Corp’s "Skills Passport" initiative, which was objected to by the Ministry of Finance early this year.

“The project has been delayed for over a year, and the ministry finds that it’s no longer relevant for implementation,” Sim said in a statement. Observers state that Sim is well-versed with HRD Corp, having been Deputy Finance Minister, and will probe into other issues in HRD Corp.

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) also summoned Human Resources Ministry officials and HRD Corp senior officials to investigate the management and finances of the corporation. Will the PAC or Sim refer the matter to MACC for further financial mismanagement by HRD officials?

The Skills Passport project came under scrutiny in May this year after an online portal published an article that HRD Corp said contained false and defamatory statements about the contract and procurement process of the initiative.

On 7th May 2023, The Vibes reported: “The Human Resources Ministry (MoHR) may have to brace itself for another scandal after the Finance Ministry (MoF) discovered discrepancies in a contract procurement process valued between RM53 million to RM159.47 million a year involving a key official in the Human Resource Development Corp (HRD Corp). 

According to a letter sighted by The Vibes, MoF suggested that a senior officer at HRD Corp – who also happens to be on its board – attempted to mislead MoF by suggesting that they received approval from HRD Corp’s board to proceed with a programme called “Skills Passport”. 

It is understood that MoF’s letter was based on HRD Corp’s board meeting minutes dated October 6, 2022. MoF said that the minutes made reference to a report titled “Proposal to approve Skills Passport” instead, which was allegedly inaccurate given that the board’s consent for the project was never sought.

Skills Passport is believed to be a platform where workers registered with HRD Corp can register their profiles. Based on the letter, a company named Neomindz Sdn Bhd was picked to undertake the programme.

Further, MoF also pointed out that HRD Corp stated in meeting minutes that its board approved a partnership with Neomindz. “I do not agree with the meeting minutes which state ‘The Board Approved to partner with Neomindz Sdn Bhd on the implementation of Skill Passport’ because no working paper was presented to the board to request their decision,” said the MoF official on board.

“Thus, I do not agree with what was written in the meeting minutes dated October 6, 2022. It has been found that the implementation and procurement process for the Skills Passport project is unorganised.”

Despite the Finance Ministry's objections, former Human Resources Minister V. Sivakumar did not take action to terminate the contract. In his first week, Sim took action to clean up the mess in HRD Corp. During Sivakumar’s tenure, five senior officers were arrested by MACC over allegations of graft involving migrant worker recruitment. Later, MACC detained the minister’s private secretary, and Sivakumar was also summoned for questioning.

“During the board meeting on March 28, the HRD Corp senior officer misled the board by stating that the project would not result in any costs for HRD Corp,” MoF’s letter said. I want to propose to the chairman and all board members that the implementation of the Skills Passport programme should be terminated. given that the implementation failed to comply with the principles of transparency and accountability in the administration of procurements and would result in major financial and legal implications for HRD Corp.” The letter was prepared by MoF representative Datuk Rosli Yaakob, with copies sent to all HRD Corp board members, The Vibes reported.

A veteran training provider called on Minister Sim to check and curb the favoured status of certain training companies. “Also, could you stop middlemen from collecting hefty commissions to secure training jobs over two years ago?” He urged the MACC to investigate claims of HRD officials practising favouritism.

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