Friday, September 11, 2009

How Many Task Forces Do We Need To Fix PKFZ?

This reminds me of the jokes about "how many people do you need to change a lightbulb?"

Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak's “performance now” government is fast becoming a farce with the set up of another 3 “high-powered” task forces to investigate into the RM12.5 billion Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) mega-scandal. The 3 new taskforces comprising of the Chief Secretary of Government, the Treasury Secretary-General, the Attorney-General and officials from the Transport and Finance ministries will look into (i) misappropriation, abuse of power and illegal acts, (ii) good governance and (iii) the financial feasibility of the PKFZ project respectively.

These 3 taskforces are set up 3 months after another “Special” Task Force and 2 committees were set up by the Ministry of Transport in June 2009 to deal with the exact same issues.

The Special Task Force comprises of preeminent lawyers, accountants, quantity surveyors and building cost consultants from top rated professional firms were appointed to assist in the legal review and financial restructuring of PKFZ.

Port Klang Authority (PKA) has also set up a Committee of Corporate Governance led by Datuk Paul Low Seng Kuan, President of Transparency International Malaysia and Encik Nik Mohd. Hasyudeen Yusoff, President of Malaysian Institute of Accountants. In addition, an Executive Committee was formed to plan and monitor the business development of the trade zone.

The special task force and committees had been set up in response to a report which had been prepared by another Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PwC) task force which had already revealed some major discrepancies, conflict of interest, abuse of power, the absence of governance as well as major incompetence in the management of the PKFZ project.

Now the Prime Minister, instead of acting on the detailed report prepared by the Special Task Force for the Cabinet, has decided yet again to set up another 3 task forces to “investigate” further. This is completely ridiculous on 2 separate levels:

Firstly, millions have been spent by the Ministry of Transport to hire the best in the industry to come up with the various detailed report including Mr Vinayak Pradhan from Skrine & Co, a former Commissioner with the United Nations (UN) Compensation Commission and member of the Permanent Court of Arbitration. Have the reports by Skrine and PwC been so incomplete and inconclusive that the Government must set up another task force to investigate further? If that is the case, then the Prime Minister should demand the Special Task Force to do their homework properly, especially since millions of public funds are being paid to them.

If however, the Special Task Force has done their investigations diligently and comprehensively, then why is there a need for a separate new “high-powered” task force?

Secondly, it defies logic completely that the task force will comprise of senior officials from the Ministry of Finance and Transport who were themselves involved both directly and indirectly with the project, some right from its very inception! How can we expect this new “high-powered” task force of Ministry officials to act impartially and professionally when they themselves are vested interest parties?

What's more, many of these officials have been summoned by the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) to assist with the investigation of the PKFZ scandal, and the PAC has already found them to have failed or neglected to perform their duties in a responsible and competent manner, as revealed by the PAC chairman, Datuk Seri Azmi Khalid himself.

This leads to the next point that besides the task forces, PAC is also investigating the mega-scandal, and so is the Malaysian Anti Corruption Commission (MACC). The latter has been investigating without anything to show since December 2004 when the first Anti-Corruption Agency report on PKFZ was lodged. This means that there are now 9 task forces, committees or agencies which are investigating or have investigated the PKFZ scandal!

Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak should not be setting up any more task forces, especially not one led by civil servants with vested interests on PKFZ, but instead use the detailed report by the Special Task Force comprising of top notch professionals to take appropriate actions against those who has been singled out as having been criminally negligent, abused powers, corrupt or defrauded the Government.

If the Prime Minister still insist on another investigating task force, then let it be an Independent Royal Commission of Inquiry on PKFZ to ensure that all responsible parties are brought to book, regardless of whether they are current or former Ministers, senior or junior civil servants who caused Malaysia's ugliest scandal ever.
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