GEORGE TOWN: Two European NGOs have exposed the European Business Assembly (EBA) which piled honours on Penang’s local councils as a vanity awards scam.
It is on a list of 10 organisations in Europe and China that hold elaborate ceremonies and create beautiful trophies to go with hundreds of awards.
“In many cases, those awards are bogus, sold by unscrupulous organisations that prey on human vanity,” the Center for Investigative Reporting of Serbia (CINS) and the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) researchers wrote in a 2014 report.
The report states that such organisations sent solicitation letters to companies and government agencies in the world, telling them that they had been nominated for various awards.
“Anyone who replies, shows interest and agrees to pay gets an award. Most of the letters contain the ceremony programme generally held in an attractive European capital, pictures of the trophies and information about costs,” the report added.
CINS was founded in 2007 by the Independent Journalists’ Association of Serbia to support investigative journalism.
OCCRP comprises investigative reporters throughout Europe, Africa, Asia and Latin America.
The two local councils in Penang were left red-faced for getting EBA awards in 2013 and 2014.
The now retired Penang Island City Council (MBPP) mayor Datuk Patahiyah Ismail was awarded the Best Municipal Manager while the council was given the Best Municipality Award in 2013.
A year later, Seberang Prai Municipal Council got the Best City award while its then president Datuk Maimunah Mohd Sharif won the Best Municipal Manager award.
On Monday, it was reported that EBA was generating millions of pounds by selling fake University of Oxford awards and certificates.
Pulau Betong assemblyman Datuk Muhammad Farid Saad said he found many articles online exposing EBA as a vanity awards organisation.
“Did they spend ratepayers’ money to get those honours? It’s like buying fake academic degrees,” he said in a statement.
Penang MCA secretary Tang Heap Seng said the state government should explain to the people whether it had purchased the awards to enhance its reputation.
In a statement, MBPP said it regretted that the awards were suspected of being false and had applied to the organiser to reaffirm the recognitions.
State Local Government Committee chairman Chow Kon Yeow said he hoped both councils would be more discerning and careful in future.