Halim Ali’s satisfaction with EPF Investment Panel is not good enough as he is a self-interested party - another reason why there should be an independent performance audit of the RM187 billion EPF investment decisions as by a Royal Commission of Inquiry

Media Statement 
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya,  Tuesday): The May Day this year should focus on the safety and quality of the RM187 billion Employees Provident Fund (EPF) as old-age savings of the 10.07 EPF contributors. 

The EPF Chairman Tan Sri Abdul Halim Ali said yesterday that he was fully satisfied with the performance of the EPF Investment Panel, and that they have carried out their work professionally and have never deviated from the task entrusted to them. 

Halim Ali’s satisfaction with the EPF Investment Panel is not good enough, as it is self-serving coming from a self-interested party, being himself the chairman of the EPF Investment Panel.  Such a verdict can only be issued credibly after an independent  performance audit of the RM187 billion EPF investment decisions, as by a Royal Commission of Inquiry.

On the occasion of May Day 2002, DAP calls on the government to take seriously the spiralling concerns of the 10.07 million EPF contributors on the safety and quality of the RM187 billion EPF funds reflected by the vote of no confidence passed by 200 unions represented by the Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) central  committee on the EPF Investment Panel for its failure to ensure fair returns on the contributors’ savings. 

The recent statement by the  Deputy Finance Minister, Datuk  Chan Kong Choy  that the EPF Investment panel members were appointed by the Finance Ministry based on their credibility and expertise in investment had failed completely to answer legitimate and long-standing queries raised by the MTUC, as for instance, why the EPF’s provision for dimunition in value of equity and doubtful loans had increased from RM753.65 million in 2000 to RM1.41 billion in 2001. 

DAP calls on the Cabinet to respond to the widespread and deep-seated concerns and alarms of the 10.07 million EPF contributors about the safety, liquidity and yield of their EPF savings by setting up a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the RM187 billion EPF investment decisions to restore the  confidence of the  EPF members and the labour movement in the EPF. 

Over the years, the EPF Board had ignored calls that the EPF should adopt the  best practices of good corporate governance especially in terms of accountability and transparency, and it is most regrettable and deplorable that after half a century, the EPF is not prepared to establish a   mechanism whereby the EPF Board could be accountable to the over 10.07  million EPF members with regard to its investment policy and decisions. 

Last year, EPF invested RM39.77 billion or 21.28% its total investments of RM186.95 billion in loans and bonds, RM42.58 billion or 22.78% in equities and RM34.97 billion or 18.70% in money market instruments.  These are astronomical sums and the list of the beneficiaries of huge  EPF loans, the full details of the stocks and shares and money market instruments bought with EPF monies should be  made available to the  public in keeping with the highest standards of good corporate governance and the principles of accountability and transparency.   

The EPF has a history of dubious transactions where the EPF funds were  used as a ready cash-rich source to bail-out troubled companies when its  first and last agenda should be to promote the best interests of the EPF contributors. 

In the 1980s, the EPF was raided to fund dubious transactions resulting in the EPF-Makuwasa scandal, causing huge  losses to the EPF.   The EPF-Makuwasa scandal came about because the government wanted  to recoup the RM600 million losses suffered in a misguided attempt to corner the London tin-market through the Maminco operations in the early eighties, which backfired instead.    

In recent times, the EPF’s involvement in the  RM1.88 billion Time dotCom IPO fiasco last year and dubious and questionable loan facilities running into billions of ringgit to various mega-projects and companies, like the billion ringgit loans to Perwaja Terengganu Sdn. Bhd., the RM500 million loan in 1996  to Time Telecommunications Holdings Bhd (renamed  Time dotCom),  RM767 million in investments and loans to STAR LRT, , Bakun hydroelectric dam project, etc., have brought to the fore the question as to whether the safeguarding of the EPF members’ interest had been subordinated and even sacrificed to other considerations and agendas.   

The  EPF, which invested RM42.58 billion in equity last year and whose stock market investments are  expected to touch RM50 billion this year, is the biggest  "mover and shaker" in the Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange.    But the EPF contributors are entitled to ask as to who really benefits from the EPF being the biggest “mover and shaker” in the stock market - whether the 10.07 million EPF contributors or the EPF fund managers. 

The Royal Commission of Inquiry into the EPF investments, which should be required to complete its findings within a year,  should have broad terms of reference, including to:



*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman