KUALA LUMPUR, April 8 – The MySejahtera controversy over the Covid-19 app – originally developed for free for the government, but now attributed directly to a private company – is not unique to Malaysia.
In France, the country’s StopCovid app – which has since renamed “TousAntiCovid” (All Against the Covid) – is the subject of a preliminary investigation by the National Financial Prosecutor’s Office (PNF) for the offense of “favoritism”, reported french national newspaper The world in conjunction with newswire AFP in May last year.
The investigation into the “favoritism” of PNF – specializing in the prosecution of cases of corruption, bribery and attacks on public finances, among others – was opened in September 2020, after a French anti-corruption organization filed a complaint in June 2020 for the alleged award of contracts related to the Covid-19 application without an open tender. Favoritism is defined sanctioned by the French criminal code as the offense of granting an undue advantage in public procurement.
The details of the legally gray provisioning of Covid-19 mobile apps from MySejahtera in Malaysia and TousAntiCovid in France are remarkably similar.
Like MySejahtera which was developed by Entomo Malaysia Sdn Bhd (formerly KPISoft Malaysia Sdn Bhd) free of charge for the Malaysian government as part of a one-year corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiative ending March 31, 2021, TousAntiCovid (known then as StopCovid) was developed pro bono at no cost to the French government.
TousAntiCovid was created by the StopCovid project-team, made up of nine public and private organizations “acting voluntarily”, to provide French health authorities with a digital contact tracing tool to help manage the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a Press release of April 26, 2020 by the StopCovid project team.
The French government project StopCovid was carried out under state supervision – similar to MySejahtera which was developed under the responsibility of the government, although the specific competence is unclear with the involvement of several agencies before the appointment of the minister of Health Khairy Jamaluddin in addition to the Ministry of Health (MOH), such as the National Security Council (NSC), the National Cyber Security Agency (NACSA) and the Malaysian Administrative Modernization and Management Planning Unit (MAMPU).
MySejahtera was primarily used by Malaysia’s Ministry of Health for contact tracing through compulsory registrations in public premises, although it was later used to also host digital Covid-19 vaccination certificates – similar to AllAntiCovid (although with a Bluetooth function for contract tracing, rather than QR code scans). However, the use of the TousAntiCovid application has never been made compulsory in France.
MySejahtera was created by Entomo Malaysia using its proprietary KPISoft software, pursuant to a MySejahtera license agreement dated October 6, 2020 between Entomo Malaysia and MySJ Sdn Bhd, the company currently negotiating with the government over the application . On the other hand, according to the StopCovid project team, TousAntiCovid was developed with an open source license for the sake of transparency.
french media The Obs unveiled in June 2020 that the maintenance and hosting of TousAntiCovid (or StopCovid) provided by the company Outscale – a subsidiary of the French software publisher Dassault Systèmes, one of the members of the StopCovid project team – was invoiced at a cost of operation estimated between €200,000 and €300,000 per month.
Cédric O, then French Secretary of State for Digital, reportedly confirmed on June 23, 2020 that the TousAntiCovid application costs the government between €160,000 and €200,000 per month, including computer hosting (€40,000), maintenance and application development (€40,000 to €80,000), user support (€50,000) and deployment costs (€30,000).
The anti-corruption organization Anticor said in a Statement of March 22, 2021after filing a complaint with the Court of Justice of the Republic on the alleged direct award, that TousAntiCovid’s operating and maintenance pricing of up to €200,000 monthly exceeded “well beyond the regulatory thresholds allowing an exemption to the tendering procedure.”
Anticor specified that open invitations to tender are mandatory for public supply and service contracts over €139,000 excluding tax, on the basis of public procurement rules.
Anticor, citing a financial statement from StopCovid, also said the TousAntiCovid contract was actually higher at €6.5m (approximately RM30m) including tax, with additional new expense items – including licenses (€69,676 including tax/year), user support (€720,000 including tax/year), deployment management (€432,000 including tax/year), hosting (€576,000 including tax/year), as well as a communication campaign for the application (€2,793,000 including tax/year) . Those prices, the anti-transplant group said, exceeded industry practice.
Excluding communication costs, TousAntiCovid would cost 3.7 million euros (about RM 17 million) with taxes.
In contrast, Entomo Malaysia told the Malaysian government in its MySejahtera public-private partnership proposal in November or December 2020 that it costs around RM138.9 million per year to operate the app, including the software as as a service (SaaS) which costs RM120 million per year. .
MySejahtera is around eight times more expensive to operate, according to the app developer’s estimates, than TousAntiCovid (excluding promotion costs and taxes included) which serves the 67.8 million inhabitants of France, i.e. double the 32 .4 million people of Malaysia.
Anticor maintained that each of TousAntiCovid’s expenditure items – whether for communication or the operation of the application – should have been the subject of a call for tenders or a competitive process.
“The absence of a call for tenders in cases where it is mandatory, is likely to constitute the criminal offense of favouritism. Anticor considers that for public contracts involving such large amounts, competitive bidding was mandatory to guarantee transparency, on the one hand in the awarding of contracts and on the other hand, in the use of public money. .
Here in Malaysia, the government’s direct award of the MySejahtera contract to MySJ is not currently the subject of any criminal or corruption investigation, although Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) is set to launch the April 14 its investigation into the supply and development of the Covid-19 app.
The government says it has yet to pay sen to MySejahtera app developer Entomo Malaysia, even after the company’s CSR initiative ended more than a year ago. In its October 2020 license agreement, Entomo Malaysia transferred its intellectual property (IP) rights over MySejahtera to MySJ and granted the company a software license for RM338.6 million under an agreement until at the end of 2025.
At Dewan Negara last week, Khairy justified the government’s direct negotiations with MySJ, saying that because more modules were needed for the MySejahtera app, the MOH decided to continue with the “existing operator” rather than look for a new one.
According to the PAC’s Covid-19 vaccine supply report filed in the Dewan Rakyat on March 24, committee chairman Wong Kah Woh questioned MySejahtera’s price of direct negotiation at MySJ, noting that Entomo Malaysia – through its initial CSR draft for the app – had circumvented government procurement protocols which require open bidding for contracts over RM200,000 or RM400,000 unless approved by the Minister of Finance .
Unlike the TousAntiCovid controversy in France, which seems to focus specifically on the alleged violation of public procurement rules, the MySejahtera scandal is much more complex with issues – besides purchases – involving app ownership and security. data, due to the absence of a contract between the government and the app developer when MySejahtera was created in a CSR project.
Even national security concerns were cited by opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim and other Pakatan Harapan MPs, after code blue reported that Entomo Malaysia is wholly owned by Singapore-based Entomo Pte Ltd, which is listed in the Companies Commission Malaysia (SSM) records as “foreign”.
Khairy has yet to reveal what exactly the MOH is negotiating with MySJ – whether it’s buying the full app and its IP or buying the MySejahtera SaaS – though he told a press conference on March 28 that the deal being negotiated is “much, much less” than RM300 million.