REFSA Rojak: Crisps of the Week (12-18 Oct)

In our Selected Exhortations category, we republish interesting stuff such as must-read articles and essays not originally written exclusively for the blawg, and which have come to our attention. Please feel free to email [email protected] if you would like to reproduce your writing, but first follow our Writer’s Guide here.

Sandra Rajoo brings you another edition of REFSA Rojak – a weekly take on the goings-on in Malaysia by Research for Social Advancement (REFSA).

REFSA Rojak – “trawl the newsflow, cut to the core and focus on the really pertinent. Full of flavour, lots of crunch, this is the concise snapshot to help Malaysians keep abreast of the issues of the day.”

A and F scorers on the A-G’s list

'F' report card | Source: amboo who?/ Creative Commons

Government ministries, agencies and departments got their 2011 report card from the Auditor-General (A-G) on 15 Oct. Overall, financial performance was better than 2010, declared the A-G. That said, REFSA would venture to suggest that 2010 was a low bar, what with RM56,000 being paid for binoculars worth just RM1,000, to name just one example. The A-G did highlight concerns over “project management and procurements” which dipped well below the minimum mark.

Costs at the Transport Ministry went off the rails with the nearly 2-year delay in the Ipoh-Padang Besar Electrified Double Track Project. Health at the Health Ministry was suspect. Mismanagement of the Hospital Information System (HIS) led to the ministry paying RM15 million more for a contract awarded through direct negotiation, and maintenance cost exceeding equipment cost. Equally shameful was the “low quality of construction and non-completion” of the RM380 million Hospital Kluang in Johor.

Another ministry that has failed miserably is the Information, Communication and Culture Ministry – RM100 million allocated for its cultural and historical relic restoration project went down the drain due to poor quality of restoration works, poor management of finances and lack of proper monitoring. We can also conclude that the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry had little concern for the community as it delayed returning undistributed financial aid worth RM1.6 million and underutilised its online welfare aid system. And there is no defending the Defence Ministry which spent an additional RM174 million on defective housing for our loyal servicemen.

Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka was fined RM2.4 million over delays in the printing of textbooks. The RM1 billion Public Higher Learning Institutions Academic Training Scheme to sponsor doctorates at public universities, fell short in terms of targets and monitoring. And foolish Perbadanan Putrajaya spent RM4 million on non-functioning exhibition equipment at the Botanical Gardens.

Kudos to the A scorers. They include the Malaysian Insolvency Department which saw an increase in the number of cases resolved and increased collections. RapidKL rose above difficulties to show a credible performance, achieving MS ISO 9001:2008 certification in the process. Malaysian Standards Institute’s (Sirim) good performance in managing finances, corporate activities and subsidiaries also deserve mention. Penang and Selangor state governments were singled out for good fiscal management which saw revenue increases of RM192 million and RM63 million respectively.

In this age of GTP, ETP and NKRAs, there are people who don’t give two hoots about prudence, transparency or the A-G’s report. Obviously it’s business as usual at some departments, the kind of business that allows wastage and fraud to flourish.

Mindef’s shame

Apparently “69.8 per cent of the 301 federal departments audited had failed to comply with national financial regulatory standards”. One very good example is the Ministry of Defence. Year in year out it is reprimanded for wastage, mismanagement and irregularities. 2011 was no different. The ministry spent RM3.2 billion on housing for military personnel and what do the officers get? Defective houses, incomplete construction and poor management. On top of that was a “15% cost overrun”. According to the A-G, the ministry gave out contracts indiscriminately, i.e. through “direct negotiation or limited tender”. Mindef is also faulted for hiring construction companies that were “inexperienced” and “technically incompetent”.

The problem is nothing new actually. It has been in existence since the 1990s, according to President of the Malay Army Veteran Association, Mohamad Ali Baharom who blames it on widespread corruption in the ministry.

Invoking Sabah’s anger

Sabah must be peeved that so much money is lost through mismanagement especially since its oil reserves have consistently been used to fill up national coffers. No doubt the state has been paid a 5% oil royalty but this, according to MP Hiew King Cheu, is a measly sum. He believes Sabahans have been shortchanged for 40 years and things aren’t going to change for the better anytime soon.

To rub salt into wound, the federal government is planning to build a RM1 billion coastal road linking Tuaran, Kota Maruda, Kudat and Kota Kinabalu. Sabahans think the plan is ‘ridiculous’ as the government has for a long time not bothered to repair or upgrade existing roads. In fact the current road linking the districts is just “a few kilometres from the coast”. It makes more sense to use the money for repairing the roads.

Chinatown’s dilemma

Over in Peninsular Malaysia, it’s the Chinatown traders who are crying foul over the Klang Valley MRT project. Some of the traders believe they are receiving the short end of the stick – those who refuse to sign a Points of Agreement (PoA) with MRT Corp may have their properties seized by the government. Twenty property owners have already signed the agreement while owners of three lots are determined not to. The manner in which the issue has been handled has not gone down well with these traders.

People who have little prospect of redress will become desperate. Riding roughshod over them will make things worse. Decent treatment will go a long way.

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Why ‘Rojak’? Disparate flavours and textures come together in a harmonious mix to make this delicious but underrated concoction. Our Rojak weekly is much like this mix, making sense of the noise of daily newsflow and politicking.

It is also our ultimate dream that our multi-ethnic melange of communities can be made richer within the unique ‘sauce’ that is Malaysia. Let’s take pride in the ‘rojakness’ of our nation!

 

Click here for previous issues of REFSA Rojak.

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(Featured image accompanying article on main page courtesy of Kevin Dean, source: http://bit.ly/RGq1yc)


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REFSA is an independent, not-for-profit research institute providing relevant and reliable information on social, economic and political issues affecting Malaysians with the aim of promoting open and constructive discussions that result in effective policies to address those issues. Visit us at www.refsa.org

Posted on 19 October 2012. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0.

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