The RM17.2 million paid out by Puncak Niaga Holdings Bhd (PNHB) as directors fees is "madness", especially when it is a loss-making company with services that are not up to mark, the Coalition Against Water Privatisation (CAWP) says.

azlanThe  top management of the company, which owns state water distributor Syarikat Bekalan Air Selangor (Syabas), enjoys benefits no matter how much losses the company suffers, CAWP coordinator Charles Santiago said.

"The company is obviously bleeding, but the top leadership is being paid more," Santiago told Malaysiakini, adding that this was done at the expense of the company's employees and the people of Selangor.

He was commenting on the Top 50 highest paid directors list released on Wednesday by Malaysian Business, which places Puncak Niaga in the 16th spot for paying a single director between RM8.35 million and RM8.4 million last year.

The list was compiled based on the annual reports of the companies concerned. The identity of Puncak Niaga's highest paid director was not disclosed in the report.

It was also disclosed that a total of RM17.2 million was paid as directors' fees to Puncak Niaga's executive directors during a year when the company reported a pre-tax loss of RM75.2 million.

In fact, the annual report showed that the company has been in the red since 2007 - when it's pre-tax loss was RM435.7 million - but since then the losses have been gradually reduced.

azlanSantiago, who is also Klang MP, said it was unacceptable for the company to be paying massive fees to its board members as it was essentially a public utility company.

Puncak Niaga owns Syabas, which is the state's sole water supply distributor.

Critics claim that the company was awarded a highly lopsided concession agreement when the BN was in power in Selangor, with written promises of steep and steady water tariff hikes.

The current Pakatan Rakyat administration has criticised its performance, particularly in reducing non-revenue water.

‘Span must act'

Santiago said the onus was now on the National Water Services Commission (Span) to review the concession agreement and ensure that Puncak Niaga does not profiteer at the people's expense.

"Span has three roles: To control costs, to determine tariffs and look into infrastructure matters," said Santiago, a long-time campaigner against the privatisation of water supply.

He said Span should investigate the return of investment for Puncak Niaga and its profit levels.

NONEIn the interest of transparency, Span should also compel Puncak Niaga to release its concession agreement for public scrutiny.

Santiago was also a party in the successful suit in the High Court by the Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) that compelled Syabas to reveal its concession agreement with the Selangor government and its audit report.

The documents are classified under the Official Secrets Act (OSA).

However, Syabas successfully appealed against the landmark decision.
MTUC has been waiting for over a year for the written judgment, so that it will be able to appeal the matter before the Federal Court.