Corruption concerns

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The Commission for Mission’s Justice and International (JIM) unit is continuing to lobby the Tasmanian Government-owned Hydro Tasmania to stop doing business with Sarawak Energy Berhad (SEB), which is accused of operating corruptly in Malaysia.

Hydro Tasmania is a government business enterprise and its consulting arm, Entura, is one of three Australian companies working with SEB on a project to construct up to a dozen hydropower dams by 2020 in Sarawak, Malaysia’s largest state.

SEB is a 100 per cent state-owned electricity supplier in Sarawak under the State Financial Secretary who reports to Finance Minister (and Chief Minister) Taib Mahmud. SEB is chaired by Abdul Hamed Sepawi, the cousin and one of the closest business allies of Mr Mahmud.

Swiss non-government organisation, the Bruno Manser Fund, claims the proposed dams will displace Indigenous people and has raised concerns that contracts related to building the dams will go to companies linked to the chief minister’s family.

There are allegations of a failure to disclose feasibility studies, social and environmental impact assessments and resettlement action plans.

Despite this evidence Entura has, to date, refused to consider withdrawing from the project.

In a letter to the Tasmanian Deputy Premier and Energy Minister, Bryan Green, JIM unit director Dr Mark Zirnsak accepted that hydropower had a place to play as a renewable energy source, in the right circumstances.

But, the unit is unconvinced that Entura has sufficiently considered the risks of corruption in the project and the risk it is indirectly benefiting from any corruption that may be present.

Dr Zirnsak said it was accepted that Entura would never knowingly be directly involved with any corrupt activity.

He has urged the government  to require Entura to develop a comprehensive public policy on how it assesses the risks of corruption in a project and to be clear under what circumstances a project would pose an unacceptable corruption risk.

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