So just recently, three company directors were detained by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC). The directors were suspected of bribing certain officials at Tourism Malaysia to secure a promotional contract worth a whopping RM90 million. It is believed that the company involved did not meet technical and financial requirement to qualify for the contract.
This news got us to restart an article we’ve put aside for a while (more on why in a bit). Back in February, Marketing Magazine published an article stating how Tourism Malaysia had announced the names of companies that were awarded with several contracts, including one worth almost RM90 million. Just to make it clear, the arrested company directors and the company aren’t named, so there’s no direct connection between the news reports and this article.
According to the Marketing Magazine article, the company that won the RM90 million contract is known as The IO Movement, a relatively unknown brand consultancy that provides public relations and communications services. The company was said to have very little information online as well, which is probably why it raised a few questions as to how it could even get the RM90 million contract in the first place.
The Marketing Magazine article inspired us to look into this further, so we decided to look into the company by getting its Companies Commission of Malaysia (SSM) report, the same way we did with Zahid Hamidi’s Yayasan Akal Budi. We also managed to talk to the someone from the company via email to find out more about them.
And just to clarify, we did this waaaaayyyy before the MCO started but since the control order was in place, this story had to be put on the backburner for awhile. Anyways, based on our limited research capabilities, we found several weird things about the company like…
1. You won’t find the deets of the contract on Tourism Malaysia’s website anymore!
Ok, this is not something we’ve noticed from the SSM report. As we read the article from Marketing Magazine, we came across this screenshot of tenders, which is apparently from the Tourism Malaysia’s website.
However, when we tried searching for the tender on the govt agency’s website itself, we were greeted with this instead…
In fact, when we tried looking up for the tender details on the Finance Ministry’s website, we couldn’t find anything!
Besides that, while researching for this story, we found out that Tourism Malaysia posted up a tender notice sometime in April 2019 on The Star newspaper comprising of six tenders altogether (you can take a look at the notice here).
Oddly enough, a Facebook user by the name of Tuan Carlos posted a picture of another tender notice by Tourism Malaysia in August 2019. Although it is a Request for Proposal (RFP), Tuan Carlos pointed out how the notice is pretty much for the same kind of job that the agency had posted in April. And this tender was later given to The IO Movement.
2. The company was actually founded in 2007 but its website is still under construction?!
One of the first things I/O told us was how the company is fairly new.
“While our agency is fairly new, our team is also made up of some of the most experienced professionals in the industry – we have people in our team who has created and developed destination, place and nation brands, including the mind behind the creation of a neighbouring country’s award-winning destination brand.” – via email to CILISOS.
But based on the SSM report, the company has been around since 2007 and it was formerly known as the IB Intercorp Sdn Bhd. Just in case you’re curious, there’s no trace of the company while it was known as the IB Intercorp (nope, not even a website).
According to I/O, the company was founded by Ibrahim Ivan Omar, who was formerly with Petronas, among other companies. Despite that, the SSM report didn’t list him as one of the shareholders of the company. And it also seems as though he’s no longer with the company.
“(Ibrahim is the) former Chief Strategy Officer of the I/O Movement. He is still involved in the company, albeit not full-time, in an advisory capacity.” – via email to CILISOS..
Anyways, the company changed its name to The IO Movement in August 2016. According to a Facebook post by Ivan Omar himself, IO stands for his name – Ivan Omar. The name remains the same up til now.
Another thing that remains the same tho is the company’s website. If you head over to theiomovement.com, you’d be greeted with a single page of… uhh… darkness and a welcome(?) note.
We crawled the website a lil and found that up til 2018 at least, the website seemed to belong to an Australian company called FastComet. It was then taken over by The IO Movement sometime in 2019 and the website has been like that ever since.
One reason could be because the website is still under construction.
“The I/O Movement’s website is still under construction, but we have an active Twitter account.” – via email to CILISOS.
Although they have an active Twitter account, it doesn’t seem like the company itself is active because…
3. The IO Movement’s last financial report was in 2016
Another thing we noticed was how the company’s last financial statement, based on the SSM report, was last reported in 2016. That was exactly when the company changed its name.
While this may not be unusual, SSM regulations state that failure to lodge financial statements is an offence under Section 68 and 259 of the Companies Act 2016.
Despite this, The IO Movement was able to not only get the RM90 million deal but also several other projects. According to I/O, the company has been working on other projects with different entities such as the Northern Corridor Economic Region (NCER), Kedah and Perak state govts and the Mindanao Development Authority. Wait, how is this even possible considering how very little info you can get online and from the SSM report?
“The I/O Movement’s full credentials are provided to our prospective clients whenever we are asked of them, or during RFP presentations and pitches.” – via email to CILISOS.
Besides that, based on the image above, you may notice that the financial reports were audited by an accounting firm called Bal & Partners. And here’s where it gets weird.
We decided to look up on the details of the secretaries of The IO Movement because they seem to be holding the same position in another two companies that might be related to The IO Movement (we’ll get to this in a bit). And we noticed how one of the secretaries, Mohd Shukri Mohd Suhari, might be working as a chartered accountant for… Bal & Partners.
We added the word ‘might’ because we tried searching for him on LinkedIn (those who work for The IO Movement would normally post that they’re working there) and the only person with such a name is the accountant.
We’re just gonna leave the info here so whatever you do with it, we advise you to just take it with…
Speaking of The IO Movement’s workers working in different companies, we also found out that…
4. Employees at The IO Movement might also be working at another PR company called Hexa Hive??
Besides The IO Movement, we also found another PR company when we stumbled upon a tweet thread about a media junket organised by Tourism Malaysia and was handled by a small PR firm. Just in case you didn’t read the thread (cos the thread is too long), it is about how a couple of media practitioners who were rudely harassed by PR officers who poked and yelled at them for asking a question to then Tourism Minister, Dato Mohammadin Ketapi, that is unrelated to the event.
We were then informed by Vee (not her real name cos she prefers to remain anonymous), who also joined the junket, that the PR company mentioned in the tweet is called Hexa Hive Collective Sdn Bhd. What surprised us was how she mentioned that the people who work at the company also work at… The IO Movement(?).
She also added that another company, Ruminary Nights Sdn Bhd, might be a decoy company that allegedly has links to Ibrahim.
Just in case you’re not keeping track, there’s now three companies in question:
- The IO Movement – the company that won Tourism Malaysia’s RM90 million contract
- Hexa Hive – small PR firm that worked for a Tourism Malaysia media junket
- Ruminary Nights – an alleged decoy company with links to Ibrahim.
So we decided to lookup these two other companies. When we searched for information on Hexa Hive, we found a LinkedIn profile of the CEO of the company, Nuradilla Noorazam, who is also the Chief Content Officer at The IO Movement. No, we’re not talking about how she used to work there but how she holds both positions at the same time… up til today.
As a matter of fact, we noticed how one of the directors of The IO Movement, Nazli Ab Halim is also the Office Manager at Hexa Hive.
But that was all we could find about Hexa Hive on the web. In addition, we weren’t even able to find anything on Ruminary Nights. So we decided to get our hands on both companies’ SSM reports and one thing we noticed about the companies was how they share the same secretaries with The IO Movement.
Oh but that’s not all…
5. ALL of these companies are registered under the SAME address too
Another thing we found out was how these three companies are registered under the same address tho they have different directors and shareholders. But then again, this probably isn’t too weird because it isn’t uncommon for companies to use their company secretary’s address as the registered address (Thanks to Zulfadzli Ridzuan for pointing this out to us!). Click here if you’re confusing company secretaries with the kind of secretary who answers phone calls.
Speaking of address, when we Googled the business address for The IO Movement, we saw this…
…which, according to the SSM report, is where one of the directors, Nazli Ab Halim lives.
Despite the similarities these companies have, I/O clarified that The IO Movement has nothing to do with Hexa Hive and Ruminary Nights although they’ve worked with one of the companies in the past.
“The I/O Movement has worked with Hexa Hive in the past as a strategic partner in projects and campaigns. Hexa Hive has also served The I/O Movement as a vendor, providing PR and Communication services. It is a norm in the industry for two different agencies to collaborate in pitches and campaigns.” – via email to CILISOS.
And despite all these, The IO Movement still managed to get Tourism Malaysia’s contract. While the contract’s worth is what may seem to attract the attention of the public…
Apparently the RM90 million deal might… not be THAT much??
As we spoke with them, we were informed that The IO Movement had actually gotten the contract through a tough competition against other local and international companies. We also found Ibrahim Ivan Omar’s Facebook post stating that the company won the contract based on facts and data (read: research) that the company made.
“We are not in the position to speak on behalf of Tourism Malaysia, but we believe our proposal to disrupt, and revolutionize how Malaysia is promoted globally is something that is fresh and inventive. We see Malaysia Truly Asia destination brand as an asset that needs to be further leveraged, and we look forward to reviving it in the future.”- via email to CILISOS.
We also noticed how Ibrahim also mentioned that the RM90 million deal might not be that much anyway because the company apparently won a two-year long contract. This would mean that the contract is worth about RM45 million per year. We’ve reached out to Ibrahim to ask him more about this but he has yet to respond to us.
In addition, Ibrahim also pointed out how Tourism Malaysia had offered contracts that are worth around that amount (RM25 million to RM30 million) back in 2015. We tried searching for this tender on the Finance Ministry’s procurement website, but the only tender that is close enough to this is worth RM28 million, which was awarded in 2014.
Although he claimed that it may not be enough, the company seemed to have materialised some work for Tourism Malaysia when it posted a video for the govt agency in March 2020.
— THE I/O MOVEMENT (@theiomovement) March 1, 2020
And despite the things we pointed out, it’s probably best to keep in mind how allegations against the three company directors are still under investigation. At the time of writing, the only thing we know about the investigation is there might be more arrests soon. But besides that, we shall just wait and see what’s gonna happen to the investigation.
Note: An earlier version of this article mentions Dato’ Ifrahim Baydr. As part of the research into this article was carried out in March, we have removed mention of his name. We apologize for any inconvenience caused.