Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Allegations against KR1M justified

Douglas Tan | December 6, 2011

The Health Ministry has concurred that some of the items sold in the KR1M shops are of inferior quality.


I truly appreciate Ameer Ali Mydin writing to FMT and giving his side of the story after my column “Kedai Rakyat: Pulling a fast one”. Once again, it truly is an honour that my articles have drawn the attention of the authorities and now Mydin, and I hope it would continue to do so as the rakyat deserve to know the facts.

Let me first clarify that I do not write on behalf of DAP and my views do not necessarily reflect that of DAP. What interests me more is the truth, or whether or not arguments and explanations put forth on certain issues can be substantiated. In this day and age, public scrutiny is always a good thing in order to ensure that the rakyat’s money is spent fairly and wisely.

Therefore, I was only able to base my facts on a combination of what is public knowledge and press releases on the Kedai Rakyat 1Malaysia website. I am glad that KR1M has decided to give us the facts directly so that we are able to do a more in-depth analysis of the whole issue.

Refurbishment costs

Firstly, I would like to apologise to Mydin for my remark that renovations of the KR1M stores could be done for RM70,000. What this assumption did not take into consideration were costs for items such as the chillers and freezers, in addition to the CCTV and POS system.

Taking Mydin’s advice to “do my homework”, I went around to interview several contractors and they revealed several interesting points during our discussions. At the cost of RM250,000 to RM750,000 for a space of 1,500 sq ft to 5,000 sq ft, the cost of doing the renovation would be between RM150 and RM167 per sq ft.

At first glance, these quotes are very good for these contractors and they would want to do the project. However to avoid misunderstanding, would Mydin be so kind to provide the Bill of Quantities (BQ) so that contractors could send in their quotes? This would be to the benefit of Mydin and the rakyat to save cost, wouldn’t you agree?

Store openings

I clearly explained how I derived the number of stores to be 31 in my article. I took it that six outlets were opened with 25 more to come next year, therefore we would come to a total of 31 outlets. Perhaps I could humbly request that KR1M keeps its website up to date to avoid misunderstanding.

After the clarification, we now understand that the subsidy of RM40 million is for 85 outlets to be opened across the country by 2012. This includes the seven stores already opened and 25 more to be opened this year. We shall watch this space to see whether it really happens.

However, I have a feeling the money has already been paid out in full. Can Mydin clarify this point? With so many other scandals going on, we do not want Mydin’s reputation to be tarnished if they remain silent on the matter. I am happy to give them the benefit of the doubt.

KR1M product quality

Unfortunately, when it comes to defending the quality of KR1M products, perhaps Mydin could have done a little more checking before being so enthusiastic to defend his products. I could accept that the generic KR1M products to be equivalent in quality to its branded counterparts, but please forgive me and the public of being sceptical in light of the new evidence.

Ameer wrote in his letter, and I quote: “It baffles me as to whoever gave you the idea that generic products are of lower quality. Please read up the meaning of generic products before you make such assumptions and in this case, allegations.” He went on to target Petaling Jaya MP Tony Pua by saying, “To date we have only unfounded, unsubstantiated allegations by Tony Pua. If he can so kindly provide his test reports to the ministry, I’m sure they would take appropriate action.”

I think that the report from the Health Ministry on Friday would be absolutely devastating as the “allegations” have proven to be true. Its director-general Hassan Abdul Rahman agreed that the KR1M items tested by Pua, PAS MP Dzulkefly Ahmad and PKR vice-president Nurul Izzah Anwar failed the standards set by the government, except for the creamer which is pending further investigation.

Items specifically include the following findings as tweeted by Pua. The Health Ministry:

  • Concedes that ice-cream product was wrongly labelled and has instructed re-labelling as “frozen confection”.
  • Accepts that “frozen confection” is still being sold as ice-cream after being given proof of receipt and price label.
  • Admits that its test on Krimer Pekat Manis showed 1Malaysia product exceeded maximum 76 percent sugar content.
  • Agrees that evaporated krimer is wrongly sold as “evaporated MILK” and will take necessary action.
  • Admits that when 155g sardine tins were tested, three out of five did not meet 55 percent net fish weight requirement.
  • Agrees the Kari Ayam tin was inadequately labelled and failed to comply with Clause 147 or 151 of Food Regulations 1985.
  • Noted the conflict in Growing Up Milk ingredient label – “susu pepejal rendah lemak” or “instant whole milk powder”.
  • Agrees that both Follow Up Milk and Growing Up Milk serves children aged one to three but says they are covered under different laws.
  • Agrees that Growing Up Milk serves 3888IU of vitamin A per day exceeding limit for 1800IU (for) children under three.
  • Informs that it has “advised” supplier of 1Malaysia Growing Up Milk to cut excessive Vitamin A and top up other nutrients

Allegations justified

With regard to the remarks made about foreign hypermarkets and also other operators running KR1M stores, that is a government matter, so I would not rebut any of the points made as Mydin knows their industry best.

However, I would like to say that Malaysians should embrace foreign competition as it would ensure the rakyat receive the best prices and services, as well as create jobs and stimulate the economy. As for the KR1M concept, it might be a CSR (corporate social responsibility) initiative but as 1Malaysia is a brand in itself, there would be no need to spend on advertising for it.

It is true that many journalists and politicians make empty allegations against the federal government, MPs and even government-linked companies. However, it is becoming apparent that there is a tangible silence when allegations are revealed to be true, or there is a substantial amount of finger-pointing to divert attention from the core issues.

I have absolutely nothing against Mydin or its companies. They have been an upstanding, well- respected business in the industry and serve their customers with integrity and professionalism. However, we want to ensure that this is maintained and criticism is supposed to help improve the services provided. Is this not why so many companies have feedback forms?

My compulsion to write again on this topic is because I do not think that it is fair to accuse me of making allegations when there is evidence to confirm them. When I am wrong, tell me that I’m wrong. However, do not tell me I am wrong when it is proven to be true.

Ameer ended his letter by remarking: “It appears that making false, unsubstantiated allegations is the easy part for Douglas Tan. The difficult part is for him to justify the allegations, unfortunately the damage to the IKS Suppliers and KR1M is already done.”

Well, it appears that I have just justified them. Checkmate.

Douglas Tan obtained his law degree from the University of Nottingham and currently works in the manufacturing industry. He is an active member of the DAP but does not let it define his opinions.

No comments: