DAP calls on Auditor-General to initiate a full and special performance audit into the RM140 million East Coast school computer lab fiasco and to ascertain whether Education Minister or Deputy Education Minister is right with regard to the Education Ministry’s liability and responsibility
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by Lim Kit Siang
(Penang, Sunday): One of the most unfortunate and disgraceful aspects of the RM140 million East Coast school computer laboratory fiasco is the glib and self-serving stand taken by the Education Minister, Tan Sri Musa Mohamad that the Education Ministry was “totally blameless” as the contractor, Bell Grand Sdn. Bhd. and the project management consultant, QSC Projects Sdn. Bhd., were “completely at fault”.
This is most unacceptable. In fact, there is a conflict of views about the liability and responsibility for the computer lab fiasco between Musa and the Deputy Education Minister, Datuk Abdul Abdul Aziz Shamsuddin as the latter admitted the Education Ministry’s “full responsibility to ensure that construction of all computer labs are completed on time for the sake of our students” although the construction is not only the responsibility of the Education Ministry but also the Treasury and the Economic Planning Unit (EPU) of the Prime Minister’s Department. (Star 17.7.03).
In January this year, when the failure to complete school computer laboratory projects in Negri Sembilan became a public issue, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Education Ministry, Datuk Mahadzir Mohd Khir declared that all State Education Departments had been ordered to submit comprehensive reports on the status and progress of their computer laboratories in primary and secondary schools to the Ministry as soon as possible.
Why should the Education Ministry only “wake up” to such an atrocious state of affairs when the roof of a computer lab at SRK LKTB Rentam in Bera, Pahang collapsed in March?
While the liability and responsibility of the contractor and consultant for the school laboratory fiasco are not disputed, Musa’s attempt to disclaim liability and responsibility for the Education Ministry for the scandal where 574 of the 600 computer laboratories built in the East Coast are not safe and in danger of collapse must not go unchallenged for it would set a bad example for Ministers and ministries to shirk their responsibility and accountability to Parliament and the taxpayers.
For this reason, the Auditor-General should initiate a full and special performance audit into the RM140 million East Coast school computer lab fiasco and to ascertain whether Education Minister or Deputy Education Minister is right with regard to Education Ministry’s liability and responsibility for the debacle, whether the Education Ministry is “totally blameless” or whether the Education Ministry must be held as one of the trio, together with the contractor and consultant, responsible for the fiasco because of negligence and the degree and extent of the Education Ministry’s liability.
The Auditor-General’s full and special performance audit, which should be completed and submitted in time for the September Parliament to guide and inform MPs in their debate on the 2004 Budget on the issue, should not be confined to the first phase of the East Coast computer laboratory projects, but extend to all phases and zones of the entire RM752 million school labs project.
If a national opinion poll is taken as to whether the Education Ministry should also be held responsible for the computer laboratory fiasco, I have no doubt that only Musa and a handful of Education Ministry bureaucrats would vote for “No” while over 99 per cent of the people would vote positive with regard to its responsibility and liability. This makes a full and special performance audit by the Auditor-General into the computer laboratory fiasco urgent and imperative.
The computer laboratory fiasco is a great shame for Malaysia for as the Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi had said, “building a computer laboratory is not difficult …it is a simple building but yet they were incompetent”. In such circumstances, how could local firms take on foreign infrastructure companies in developing complex and high-tech projects, as Abdullah suggested only last week. Malaysians should not compound the shame by allowing the Education Minister to disclaim his Ministry’s liability, responsibility and accountability to Parliament and the taxpayers by claiming to be “totally blameless”.
* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman