Friday, June 12, 2009

PKFZ scandal – will we actually see accountability?

A “Special Task Force” and two committees have been formed to “take immediate action” on Port Klang Free Zone, so said a Wednesday, 10 June press release by Port Klang Authority (PKA) chairman Dato’ Lee Hwa Beng:

1) The Task Force, comprising lawyers, accountants, quantity surveyors and building cost consultants has to make “in depth analysis and studies within their given scope of expertise and provide PKA the appropriate recommendations, within 2 months, for follow-up actions to be taken by the government”;
2) A Committee of Corporate Governance led by Datuk Paul Low, President of Transparency International Malaysia “shall oversee all future (emphasis mine) governance issues to ensure that lapses that have been identified .. do not recur in future”;
3) At PKFZ level, an Executive Committee has been formed “to plan and monitor the business development of the trade zone”.

More committees, more fees! Yes, we do need to chart the most effective part forward. But just as importantly, we need accountability for the past. Jail terms for wrong-doers. Not just more committees, studies, recommendations, planning and monitoring.

Otherwise, Malaysia is doomed. Because wrongdoers have nothing to fear. It’s OK if you swindle the rakyat of RM13bn. RM13bn that could have been used to build 500,000 low-cost houses; RM13bn that could have sent 43,000 deserving students to further their studies overseas, RM13bn that could be used to give RM1,300 cash to each adult Malaysian. You just suffer a few days, or perhaps weeks, of adverse publicity. After that you can go about enjoying your luxurious life, your overseas holidays, flashy cars ….. when you really should be in jail.

Citizen Nades of the Sun on Wednesday published a good long, list of people who should shed light on the issue. Here’s my summary. Accountability must start from the top down. The top in this case starts from the Ministers of Transport. No guilt is presumed, but some explanations are in order, for a start:

1) Former Ministers of Transport Tun Ling Liong Sik and Tan Sri Chan Kong Choy have to explain how the cost ballooned over 6x from RM1.957bn to RM13bn today despite constant reassurances the project was viable;

2) In addition Transport Minister Chan signed not one, but THREE letters that “can be construed as guarantees”. Such letters can be issued only by the Ministry of Finance. How could he have signed THREE such letters? Was he misadvised? Or did he sign knowing the implications? Either way, the Minister and/or senior civil servants have to answer;

3) The men who held the position of PKA chairman (at different times) through this mess: Senior MCA politicians Datuk Dr Ting Chew Peh, Datuk Yap Pian Hon and Datuk Chor Chee Heng, who is now Deputy Finance Minister.
The chairman is head of the board of directors which governs PKA. The board of is supposed to scrutinize management and guide policies. Yet, the Pricewaterhouse report confirms “a general lack of Board oversight and governance over the Project”.
For example, PKA gave KDSB development contracts on the basis of unfinalised building plans, and as early as May 2004, the Auditor General said PKA did not have sufficient financial resources.
Where was the Board and the Chairman when all these transpired?;

4) Datin Paduka O.C. Phang, former general manager of PKA.

No comments: