Entering New Territory With Open Tenders


When the open tender system was introduced by the Penang state government more than three years ago, its architects believed that the transparent process would once and for all eliminate irregularities and political partiality, two traits that were once almost synonymous with public procurement. Zairil Khir Johari explores its implications on the broader socioeconomic picture.

By and large, it has achieved its objectives. Yet at the same time it has also attracted a string of criticisms, including accusations of discriminating against the Malays on the one hand, and disenfranchising the Chinese on the other. So is it either or neither? How does the open tender system work and why is it perceived to discriminate?

A promise fulfilled

Within two weeks of the opposition’s historic victory in Penang in the 2008 general elections, the state’s executive council approved the use of an open tender system for all state procurements.

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