Thursday, November 03, 2011

Pemandu Should Support "Financial Accountability Commission"

Pemandu must support the set up of a Financial Accountability Commission (FAC) to ensure that the Government Transformation Plan (GTP) is not completely derailed

Among the chief targets of the Government Transformation Plan (GTP) launched in December 2009 by the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak and PEMANDU is to fight corruption, particularly in “Government procurement”.

The GTP wrote that “We will reduce leakages of funds allocated for national development and operational expenditure and ensure transparency in the award of contracts. Currently the public perceives that there is a lack of transparency in our procurement processes.”

According to the GTP, “to prevent a repeat of incidences like those reported by the Auditor-General”, the Government will “gradually reduce” the use of “support letters” and require the disclosure of details of government procurement contracts. In addition, the GTP also called for “stiffer punishment” because fo cases which are not prosecuted (and many aren’t), “departmental disciplinary actions taken are usually light e.g., the issuance of warnings.

However, as per the results published by the Auditor-General for 2010, the result of the GTP is scarce and scores of cases of leakages, abuse of power, mismanagement and incompetence were still in place.

The Marine Parks Department for example, took the leading role by purchasing binoculars worth not more than RM1,940 was purchased at RM56,350, more than 28 times the market price. It was of course not the only offending item – the Department purchased RM192,694 worth of products including common items such as laptops, printers, LCD TV, DVD Player when their total value should not exceed RM20,193.

What proved the futility of the GTP was the presence of many repeat offenders who obviously had little regard of the measures put in place by PEMANDU. The Ministry of Education is a persistent offender with a litany of lapses recorded by the Auditor-General on a yearly basis, such as a RM160.7 million project in Sabah to equip 300 schools by 2008. However, as at the end of 2010, only 2 computer laboratories were completed.

Majlis Amanah Rakyat (Mara), an agency tasked to uplift the welfare of bumiputeras is again chastised for making high-priced purchases such as an oven worth RM419 for RM1,200, folding beds worth RM100 for RM500 among other things despite having taken the limelight in the previous year for paying RM42,320 for each notebook computer.

The reasons for the failure of the GTP measures were multifold – they were either ineffective such as a voluntary disclosure of procurement contracts or there was little political will by the Government, particularly from the Cabinet to enforce stronger disciplinary measures against the relevant offenders. The result is naturally the continued abuse of finances in Government procurement and project management as proven in the latest Auditor-General’s report.

Therefore, we’d like to call upon PEMANDU to support our call to set up an independent Financial Accountability Commission (FAC) answerable to the Parliament and empower to mete out punitive actions against Government officers found guilty of misconduct, corruption, negligence or sheer incompetence. The FAC should not be staffed with any civil servant to avoid conflicts of interest, but instead by headed by leading professionals in the field of audit and integrity such as the Malaysian Institute of Certified Public Accountants (MICPA) and Transparency International (TI) Malaysia.

Only then, there is hope that “real” actions will be taken against offending officers, lending teeth to the GTP’s fight against corruption in government procurement processes and ensuring substantial deterrence to continued abuse in the management of government finances.

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