Cabinet tomorrow should agree
to give priority and allow debate in Parliament my motion on the long list
of failed government infrastructure projects running into tens of billions
of ringgit, both PMC-related or otherwise, to ensure this will not become
the first full-blown scandal of the Abdullah premiership
Media Conference Statement
by Lim Kit Siang
(Parliament House, Tuesday): Yesterday, I invoked a rarely-used provision under the Dewan Rakyat Standing Orders to table a question without notice today, asking the Prime Minister to state the culpability of Ministers and government departments for the long list of failed government infrastructure development projects, whether related to Project Management Consultants (PMC) or otherwise – such as the MATRADE Building, highways, schools, hospitals – running into tens of billions of ringgit in line with the principles of accountability, transparency and good governance.
Normally, questions put to Ministers require notice “not later than 14 working days before the commencement of the meeting” - S.O. 22(2). As the current budget meeting started on September 1, this means no MP could pose any questions to Ministers unless notice is given before 13th August 2004 – which is a most ridiculous rule, as it denies MPs the right and duty to raise during question-time in Parliament burning public issues which happened in the past three months!
However, under S.O. 22(1), a question may be asked without notice if “the Speaker is of the opinion that it is of an urgent character and relates either to a matter of public importance or to the arrangement of public business, and the member has obtained the permission of the Tuan Yang di Pertua to ask it”.
I have this morning been informed in writing that the new Yang di Pertua, Tan Sri Ramli Ngah Talib, has rejected the asking of the question without notice about the long list of failures of PMC and non-PMC government infrastructure projects which run into tens of billions of ringgit, “kerana perkara yang dibangkitkan itu bukanlah satu perkara yang perlu disegerakan”.
It is most regrettable that the first decision of the new Speaker is to interpret the Standing Orders in a narrow and conservative manner to inhibit the chief function of Parliament, which is to effectively hold the government to account.
There is no other public issue which is currently more urgent or burning in the public arena than the giving of a full and satisfactory accounting about the long list of PMC and non-PMC government infrastructure development projects which run into tens of billions of ringgit, symbolic of gross absence of Ministerial and government responsibility in the stewardship of public projects and expenditures.
The urgent need for proper accountability about the long list of PMC and non-PMC projects running into tens of billions of ringgit is particularly acute for two reasons:
In contrast, the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said a week ago that the fate of the Finance Ministry-appointed PMCs, which had been blamed for the delays and poor workmanship of government projects, would be decided soon pending the outcome of a report from the Works Minister, Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu. Such conflicting statements by the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister and Cabinet Ministers about the PMC must end and Parliament must be urgently told of the true position.
For the resumption of the present Parliament meeting beginning yesterday, I have given notice for the following motion:
I call on the Cabinet tomorrow to agree to give priority and allow debate in Parliament my motion on the long list of failed government infrastructure projects running into tens of billions of ringgit, both PMC-related or otherwise, to ensure this will not become the first full-blown scandal of the Abdullah premiership.
Parliament will be failing in its duty to effectively hold the government to account if it is unable to focus on the scandal of the long list of failed government infrastructure projects, especially as there is at present a competition galore to pinpoint and shift the blame or responsibility for the failures to other parties, involving the Works Ministry, the Public Works Department, the Finance Ministry and the PMCs.
DPM Najib has rejected the DAP call to table a White Paper on the PMCs without giving any strong or acceptable reasons from the point of view of accountability, transparency and good governance.
If Najib is not prepared to table a White Paper on the PMC and non-PMC infrastructure projects scandal, he should ensure that there are no attempts to “white-wash” or pre-empt a full and proper accountability, by agreeing to have my motion given top priority to be debated.
This is particularly imperative, as tens of billions of ringgit are involved, whether for PMC or non-PMC related projects.
At the Roundtable Discussion of Presidents and Chief Executives in the Construction Industry in Kuala Lumpur on June 23, Works Minister Samy Vellu gave very pertinent statistics.
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, while the balance of RM16.5 billion were given out to PMCs. From this amount, only 30% of the projects managed by the PMCs were completed within schedule.
These astronomical figures underlines the urgency that Parliament should be able to immediately debate this issue to hold the government effectively to account, if Parliament is to be able to play its role as the custodian of the taxpayers’ interests.
Finally, with Tan Sri Ramli Talib becoming the new Speaker, creating the vacancy of the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), I call on the government to agree to the appointment of an Opposition MP to head the PAC – as the first step in the long-awaited programme of parliamentary reform and modernization to transform the Malaysian Parliament into a First-World Parliament.
* Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman