Although disappointed that Malaysia has not reached the “First World” league where an Opposition MP is PAC Chairman, I support Shahrir’s appointment with high expectations that he will be the first PAC Chairman to leave a mark in parliamentary annals and remembered in nation’s history in ensuring effective parliamentary control of government finance and performance
- on the motion to appoint Shahrir Samad as Public Accounts Committee Chairman
by Lim Kit Siang
(Dewan Rakyat, Tuesday): Firstly, let me express my great disappointment that despite the repeated reminder of the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to end the Malaysian malaise of “First-World Infrastructure, Third-World Mentality”, Malaysia has not reached the “First-World” league where an Opposition MP is Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).
So long as the government-of-the-day is not prepared to accept the world-wide parliamentary convention in advanced and progressive Parliaments that the Opposition heads the PAC, so long will Malaysia be in the backwaters in terms of good governance and effective parliamentary control of the Executive and the government.
This is probably the reason why in the close-to-five decades of Malaysian parliamentary history, the nation has not produced any great PAC Chairman. If Malaysians are asked whether they could recall the name of any PAC Chairman, nobody would be able to do so.
Although I am disappointed that Malaysia has not reached the “First World” league where an Opposition MP is PAC Chairman, I support Shahrir Samad’s appointment with high expectations that he will be the first PAC Chairman to leave a mark in parliamentary annals and remembered in nation’s history in ensuring effective parliamentary control of government finance and performance.
At a time when both sides of the political divide are expressing the hope that the Malaysian Parliament can transform itself into a First-World Parliament, I hope Shahrir can also set the precedent to make the PAC a most influential, effective and pro-active parliamentary mechanism and a leading part of the national integrity system to ensure public integrity, efficiency and professionalism in the management of public accounts running to hundreds of billions of ringgit a year, whether for Federal and State governments or government enterprises.
It is be most unfortunate if Shahrir not only let me down, but also all MPs, whether Barisan Nasional or Opposition, who believe he can make the PAC truly respected and even feared by the entire government, including front-benches.
Recently, the long list of failed government infrastructure projects, Project Management Consultants (PMC and non-PMC) was the burning issue of the country.
This started in Parliament in October during the committee stage debate on the Works Ministry, when some Barisan Nasional MPs, including MP for Kinabatangan, Bung Moktar, MP for Labuan Suhaili Abdul Rahman, MP for Batu Kawan Huan Cheng Guan, and even MP for Jerai, Badruddin Amiruidin , had called for the resignation of the Works Minister, Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu for the long list of failed government infrastructure projects involving MATRADE Building, highways, schools and hospitals.
However, when Samy Vellu publicly claimed that his Ministry and Public Works Department should not be held responsible for the long lists of failed government infrastructure projects, as they were the primarily the responsibility of PMCs, Barisan Nasional MPs who had been baying for the blood of Samy Vellu suddenly fell silent, as if they knew that PMCs are “untouchable”, even if they are guilty of colossal waste of public funds.
It is most disappointing that the PAC had failed over the years brought its scrutiny on the subject of PMCs, as well as the long list of failed government infrastructure projects, whether PMC or non-PMC.
The enormity of the problem of failed PMC projects is illustrated by the revelation by Samy Vellu during the Roundtable Discussion of Presidents and Chief Executives in the Construction Industry in Kuala Lumpur on June 23, 2003, where he said that in 2002, the value of projects implemented by the Government was about RM23.5 billion, with the PWD handling RM7 billion worth, or 30 per cent of the projects. The balance of RM16.5 billion or 70 per cent were given out to PMCs. From this amount, only 30% of the projects managed by the PMCs were completed within schedule.
When introducing the Mid-Term Review of the Eighth Malaysia Plan in Parliament on 30th October 2003, the then Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad estimated the expenditure of some 99.3 per cent of the original Eighth Malaysia Plan development expenditure ceiling of RM110 billion by the end of last year; and that the development ceiling of the Eighth Plan would be increased by RM50 billion to RM160 billion.
During the committee stage of the debate on the Ministry of Youth and Sports, Parliament was told that the commission paid to PMCs was between 1% to 3%,
We can now work out a rough estimate of the amounts paid to PMCs if 70 per cent of the RM160 billilon development projects under the Eighth Malaysia Plan are given to PMCs, at 1% to 3% of the project costs – which is the astronomical figure of RM1.2 billion to RM3.6 billion!
Surely, the PAC should be the in forefront to investigate into long list of failed PMC and non-PMC government infrastructure projects, in particular the record of performance of all PMCs and to submit a special report in time for the opening of the second session of Parliament in March next year.
This is also an area for Shahrir to make his mark as a PAC Chairman who stands out from the long line of nameless and faceless predecessors.
* Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman