Hoo-ha over WWW15
By Azman Ujang
WHY all the confusion over the bid for the WWW15 number plate by Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai. I’m familiar with the process and I find it straight-forward, above-board and without any ambiguity. Those who have successfully bid for number plates of their choice will sympathise with what the minister had to go through.
He was unfairly criticised by the opposition who did not check their facts.
For those not familiar with the process, it goes like this – one has to fill up a form which requires the bidder to state the chosen number, the price of the bid and a percentage of the bid amount as deposit in the form of a postal or money order. The bidder must also attach a copy of his or her identity card, obtain an official receipt number for RM10 and sign the form. The form is then placed in a sealed envelope before being dropped into a huge wooden safe.
The RTD makes it clear that failure to comply with any requirement renders the bid invalid. The outcome of the bids is also done in a transparent manner. The names of the successful bidders and their bids are displayed at the RTD office, irrespective of their station in life.
So what is it about Liow’s bid that it became controversial?
On June 6, one newspaper reported on its front-page that Liow “found himself in jam as he struggled to answer questions regarding the RM24,200 bid for the WWW15 vehicle number registered in his name”. The minister pleaded ignorance of the process, claiming it had been done by a ministry officer.
“We did not know the cost. When I applied, I did not know the cost,” he said when asked if he felt it was worth paying more than RM20,000 for the number.
The reporter should have got his facts right. In any bidding process, the deciding factor is the amount and if the amount stated by the bidder is X ringgit, it goes without saying that the bidder is convinced the sum is worth it, otherwise he would not have spent his hard-earned money on it.
The confusion over the matter was also not helped by Liow’s own subsequent explanation. He was quoted as saying: “I was simply exercising my option as a minister to request a number for my official car. I never filled up any form or any bid for the number. If I had, I would have known the figure. But when I see a figure attached to it, I was appalled.”
A statement from RTD director-general Datuk Solah Mat Hassan on June 11 to defuse the confusion did not clear the air. Another thing is that the RTD could not be expected to register an official car which does not belong to an individual in that person’s name.
Solah said the RTD had received Liow’s application in a letter dated May 14 — the last day to bid for the coveted WWW series. He said the booking evaluation committee decided to offer Liow the WWW15 at the highest bid of RM24,200.
I found what Solah said in the same statement confusing. He said Liow had three options – he could get it for free, pay the highest offered bidding price or he could reject the offer. If any bidder is given the privilege of choosing between paying RM24,200 or getting it free, common sense dictates that the bidder would want to use the option of not paying.
It could be a case of Liow being unaware of the options and I must say that in my many years as a journalist, this is the first time I’ve read a news report about such options being made available by the RTD. Speaking at a news conference at MCA headquarters on June 5, Liow denied that the Health Ministry had paid for the number.
Finally, it was Liow who moved to end the saga. On June 11, he announced that he was giving up the WWW15, adding that he was frustrated with the situation. It was not worth the trouble that he had to go through.
As he put it: “It was uncalled for and shouldn’t have happened. A lot of man-hours were wasted on an issue … even I didn’t know what was happening.”
Anyone in the business of bidding for number plates has nothing to fear. The process is above board and transparent.
* Ujang is a former editor-in-chief of of Bernama