Auditor General’s Report: Trim wastage and minimise corruption

THIS week, the main story has to be the Auditor General’s Report. Not surprisingly, countless news stories and analyses have been written and debates are still raging on since the release of the much-awaited AG’s Report on Oct 24.

Depending on what and how we choose to read the news stories, there is no doubt we can conclude that abuses in government spending are rampant. All Malaysians must now demand that wastage be trimmed and that corrupt practices minimised.

The 2010 AG’s Report has declared the federal government’s financial statement for the year ending Dec 31, 2010 as a fair and accurate account of its financial standing.

The report found that the federal government’s overall revenue for 2010 had increased by RM1.01 billion to RM159.65 billion.

According to Auditor General Tan Sri Ambrin Buang, the government also approved management allocations amounting to RM149.06 billion, which were deemed inadequate to finance expenditures amounting to RM151.63 billion.

“A total of nine ministries and departments have exceeded their respective allocations for the year prompting Parliament to approve extra funding on June 3, 2011,” he said.

“Development allocations of RM52.79 billion also fell short of the actual expenditure by RM0.66 billion. On April 5, 2011 Parliament approved another round of extra funding amounting to RM1.95 billion to meet this shortfall.”

Twenty-five ministries and 35 federal departments however earned the thumbs up from Ambrin after their financial standings were found to have improved compared to 2008 and 2009. Seventeen ministries and 13 departments were even given an ‘excellent’ rating while a ‘good’ rating was given to the rest.

The above is a news item on the AG’s Report from a mainstream publication. This one below was published in the website of a political party. I believe we can see the vast difference in the presentation of information given to readers between the two reports.

Titled ‘Audit report: Same old, same old wastages’, the report said that like in previous years, this year’s report again revealed wasteful spending by government departments.

Here are some of the items purchased in the year 2010 as listed in the AG’s report released 17 days after the presentation of the 2012 Budget.

Marine Parks Department (MPD) purchased:

• Marine binoculars for RM56,350 or 2,805 per cent higher than the market price of RM1,940.

• LCD TV/DVD player for RM16,100 or 638 per cent higher than the market price of RM2,182.

• Laptop and printer for RM11,845 or 246 per cent higher than the market price of RM3,428.

Majlis Amanah Rakyat (Mara):

• An oven at RM1,200 compared to the market price of RM419, for bakery courses in its Kelantan campus

• Folding beds at RM500, against the market price of RM100

• Two-burner gas cookers at RM200 each, rather than RM59.90 each

• Hair clippers supplied at RM250 each, instead of RM79

• A blender at RM140 instead of RM60

Other observations:

• Nine ministries: Education Ministry, Health Ministry, Home Ministry, Agriculture and Agro-Based Industry Ministry, Public Service Department, Attorney-General’s Department, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission and the Public Services Commission had overspent their allocations by a total of RM3.73 billion.

• RM186 million baggage transfer system to KL Sentral ‘ready’ since 2008 not utilised; initial estimates at RM92 million.

• Tourism Malaysia booked RM194 million (72 per cent) of RM269.7 million of advertisements without tender, against treasury regulations.

• National Sports Council (NSC) bought 23 horses via direct negotiation for RM5.7 million without approval from Finance Ministry, but 18 horses were unqualified to race.

• Universiti Malaysia Sabah took foreign loans to purchase US$39,800 of computer equipment delivered in November 2009, but equipment still in boxes.

• RM160.7 million Education Ministry project to build 300 computer labs in Sabah to be completed April 2008, AG’s report said only two completed.

Readers who care to read between the lines of the two articles, appearing on the first day of the AG’s Report release, would be able to comprehend what is right and wrong and how serious the wastage was even if the ministries responsible were given ‘good’ ratings.

The guy with a simple mind will be asking, “How on earth could the department pay RM140 for a blender which costs only RM60?” This is something quite impossible to justify!

Chief Secretary to the government Tan Sri Sidek Hassan did the right thing by asking government departments and agencies to take heed of the Auditor-General’s Report and improve their financial management.

He also praised the AG for his frank views on the spending abuses of some public servants.

“The comments and views should be taken seriously. I am more worried if there is no comment, whether positive or negative, at all from the Auditor-General,” Sidek said.

I took special note of one item in the AG’s Report — that the delay in replacing the damaged roof of the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil, Kuala Lumpur, has made it a danger to users.

It said that the vinyl roof material had tears and the screws and cables holding it together were rusty. “It is in danger of collapse and needs immediate repairs,” the report said.

The repairs were not carried out because of financial constraints. According to the report, the stadium has requested for RM30 million from the Sports Ministry since 2006 but was told no funds were available.

Now, nine ministries or departments had overspent by RM3.73 billion but the Sports Ministry could not be allocated RM30 million to ensure the safety of spectators. This is not acceptable!

Lest we forget, stadium accidents involving the loss of many lives are not uncommon all over the world. Are we waiting for a stadium tragedy to occur in Malaysia before we take action?

I’m sure we are all disappointed with every single AG’s Report year in and year out.

It’s the same old story of abuses and wastage of public funds.

And public funds come from the people – citizens who have to pay tax from their hard-earned salary or from their businesses. The people have a stake in government expenditures too and they want to see that their money is truly well spent, not abused and gone to waste.

The guilty ministries or departments had better buck up!

Hopefully, the AG’s Report for 2011 will not emerge with an item stating that someone paid RM250 for an egg, which cost 25 sen.

Don’t laugh. There are many egg-heads in our public service.

Comments can reach the writer via columnists@theborneopost.com.

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