Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Audit report ‘rubbished’ by BN? - Selena Tay

Delay in making it available to parliamentarians a ploy by the government
to avoid answering difficult questions posed by opposition MPs
The Auditor-General’s Report 2011 (also known in short as the audit report) has been late again this year… to be precise, it was 17 days late.
The budget was presented on Sept 28 and the audit report was made available to all the MPs only on Oct 15. Last year, the budget was presented on Oct 7 and the report was out Oct 24, also 17 days late.
No doubt this is becoming quite a record of sorts. Parliamentary procedure demands that the audit report must always be on the table of all the MPs when the budget is presented.
Credit must be given to Dr Mahathir Mohamad in regard to this matter as during his 22-year tenure the Auditor-General’s Report was never late, sometimes even early by up to a week.
The lateness of the report hinders Pakatan Rakyat’s efforts in bringing up relevant issues as the period for debating the report is limited to only two weeks after the budget is presented.
With the report being issued 17 days late, the Pakatan MPs can no longer bring up issues concerning the report, issues such as wastages, leakages, overpriced purchases and delays in completion of projects.
All the Pakatan MPs will try to slot in questions on the audit report during the debate on ministries, but many times the Dewan Rakyat Speaker rejects these questions and tells the Pakatan MPs to move on. This simply means that the Pakatan MPs have no opportunity to question the Barisan MPs. How to do check and balance then?
The delay in issuing the audit report works in the government’s favour and is the government’s ploy to avoid answering difficult questions posed by the Pakatan MPs. Thus the government will not be held accountable and therefore can get away with its misdeeds.
According to Kuala Selangor PAS MP, Dzulkefly Ahmad, the lateness in issuing the audit report gives rise to a negative impression towards the government of the day.
“The BN federal government cannot avoid the perception that there is something it is hiding and perhaps there exists what can be termed as ‘selective reports’ to portray the government in a favourable manner,” said Dzulkefly.
Controversial issues
This time there is a marked improvement in the performance of government departments in terms of financial management, with 111 government agencies obtaining a four-star rating compared to 77 government agencies in the previous Auditor-General’s Report.
The Pakatan-helmed states also obtained good performance rating in terms of fiscal management. For instance, the PAS Kelantan state government has seen a 58.1% increase in its consolidated fund from RM148.0 million in 2010 to RM234.47 million last year.
Investment inflow into Kelantan increased from RM15.33 million in 2010 to RM111.33 million in 2011. That is a tremendous increase of RM96 million and is not bad at all considering the way Kelantan has been sidelined in regard to the oil royalty payments.
PAS vice-president and also Kubang Krian MP, Salahuddin Ayub, noted that this time there is nothing controversial in the audit report unlike last year whereby the failure of National Feedlot Corporation (NFC) in meeting its objectives was mentioned.
This gave rise to the opinion among Pakatan MPs that the 13th general election, which was supposed to be held in March this year, had to be postponed due to the feedlot saga.
“Therefore, this time the audit report is clean enough so that there will be no more controversial issues troubling the government before the polls are held,” said Salahuddin.
Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim (Permatang Pauh MP) and DAP stalwart, Lim Kit Siang (Ipoh Timur MP), have again questioned why the Auditor-General’s Report is late again. Both are of the view that the government wants to conceal something from the citizens.
PKR’s Gombak MP, Azmin Ali, opined that at the end of the day the citizens are the ones to bear the cost of the leakages and the cost of the delayed or failed projects.
PAS Rantau Panjang MP, Siti Zailah Mohd Yusof, of Kelantan commented that “the BN federal government is afraid of facing the citizens with the truth of the situation” whereas PKR’s Indera Mahkota MP, Azan Ismail, questioned why the awarding of new contracts, for example, the MRT contracts were not stated.
Many failed projects
Other traditional sectors such as electricity, water and public transport were not the main focus this time around unlike the norm in the past.
“There was no report on the Defence Ministry which has several big issues which logically we think should have been included in the audit report,” added Azan. He also noticed that there seems to be a lack of compilation in the 2011 report unlike in previous years.
According to PKR’s strategist, Rafizi Ramli, the Attorney-General’s Office and Bank Negara should use the Anti-Money Laundering Act to freeze and seize the assets belonging to the family of Sharizat Abdul Jalil (the former Minister of Women, Family and Community Development) to ensure that the RM250 million loan can be obtained back in full, although this matter was no longer mentioned in the audit report.
The two big ticket items brought to light were Indah Water Konsortium (IWK) incurring a lost of RM888.81 million up to the end of 2010 and RapidKL incurring accumulated losses amounting to RM293.82 million from 2008 to 2010.
As for the state governments, the Malacca state government is reported to be owing the federal government a massive sum of RM865.94 million. Three of the many failed projects in Malacca are the Eye On Malaysia Ferris Wheel, International Airport in Batu Berendam (has anyone heard of this airport?) and the waterfall project in Bukit Beruang.
A special point to note is that in Johor, funds from the Johor state government were used to purchase 39 electrical appliances and equipment (amounting to RM55,360) but these were instead installed in the homes of individuals.
The audit report mentioned that this is clearly against Paragraph 4 of Garis Panduan Rancangan Pembangunan Kerja-kerja Kecil wherein it is stated that approvals of purchases and installation for individual usage is disallowed. Although it is not a big sum, it is still wrong and that is only a tip of the iceberg. Who knows how many cases have escaped detection?
Although the audit report is mild this year, perhaps to set the tone for the 13th general election, the truth is that there are still many things being swept under the carpet undetected. The public should remain vigilant and alert and it is time that the government gave some credible answers.
Selena Tay is a FMT columnist.

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