Ensure Public Govt Interest Protected In Dnb Deal Says Ex Deputy Minister


 
Ong Kian Ming says the government must protect its ability to appoint Digital Nasional Bhd’s chairman, and must have veto power over the CEO’s appointment.KUALA LUMPUR: The government must hold on to its “golden share” in Digital Nasional Bhd in any deal on the special purpose vehicle’s ownership with the nation’s telcos to protect the public interest, says former deputy minister Ong Kian Ming.
The former deputy international trade and industry minister said this in response to a report by Channel NewsAsia yesterday that Malaysia’s telcos are set to agree to a compromise deal with the government that would pave the way for a second operator in the national 5G rollout plan.
The deal would potentially see a second network set up to operate alongside DNB, to be taken over eventually by the private sector, the report had said, quoting “industry executives close to the situation”.
The report had also quoted communications and digital minister Fahmi Fadzil as saying that the deal could be inked as early as today.
Ong said that Fahmi’s ministry, as well as the finance ministry as the sole owner of DNB, should not rush to sign the deal if it cannot guarantee that the interests of the government and the public are protected.
“My fear is that without proper safeguards, we will surely move to a situation where government oversight and public interest in DNB’s single wholesale network is replaced by a private duopoly’s control over the 5G network, where shareholder returns are prioritised above all else,” he said in a statement.
He said that the deal must ensure, among others, that DNB’s assets and structure are protected “and not, for example, sold to other private sector entities for the telcos who will become DNB shareholders to profit from”.
Ong said the government must protect its ability to appoint DNB’s chairman, and must have veto power over the CEO’s appointment.
“At a time of so much uncertainty over DNB’s direction and survival as an entity, these powers are necessary to ensure its ability to survive as a going concern and be not utilised by the telcos for their own private interests.
“For example, if the government does not have these powers, the telcos may appoint a chairman and CEO who may change the terms of the reference access offer to decrease the telcos’ payments to DNB, which may jeopardise the maintenance and further enhancement of the 5G network,” he said.
Ong also advocated for strict controls over the allocation and possible disposal of 5G assets currently owned by DNB.
“This is so the telcos cannot reallocate the existing 5G infrastructure to benefit their own network, rather than allow DNB to focus on maximising the operational efficiency of the entire 5G network,” he said.
He called on the government to ensure it had done proper due diligence of the possible second network’s financing and roll-out plans, and its impact on the existing 5G network, including any financial implications to the finance ministry via its exposure to DNB. - FMT


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