DATUK Seri Najib Razak‘s “performance now” government is fast becoming a farce with the set up of another “high-powered” task forces to investigate the RM12.5 billion Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) scandal. The new task force comprising the chief secretary to the government, the treasury secretary-general, the Attorney-General, and officials from the transport and finance ministries will look into three areas: (i) misappropriation, abuse of power and illegal acts, (ii) good governance and (iii) the PKFZ project’s financial feasibility.
This new task force is set up three months after another “special” task force and two committees were set up by the Transport Ministry in June 2009 to deal with the exact same issues.
The special task force, comprising pre-eminent lawyers, accountants, quantity surveyors and building cost consultants from top-rated professional firms, were appointed to assist in the legal review and financial restructuring of PKFZ.
While on the surface, this is made to look like one super task force, in reality and practically, it will be three separate sub-committees dealing with the three areas. Hence this super task force is in effect three task forces.
The Port Klang Authority has also set up a committee of corporate governance led by Datuk Paul Low Seng Kuan, president of Transparency International Malaysia and Nik Mohd Hasyudeen Yusoff, president of the Malaysian Institute of Accountants. In addition, an executive committee was formed to plan and monitor the trade zone’s business development.
The special task force and committees were set up in response to a report which was prepared by another Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PwC) task force, which had already revealed some major discrepancies, conflict of interest, abuse of power, the absence of governance, as well as major incompetence in the management of the PKFZ project.
Now the prime minister, instead of acting on the detailed report prepared by the special task force for the cabinet, has decided yet again to set up another task force to “investigate” further. This is ridiculous on two separate levels.
Firstly, millions have been spent by the Transport Ministry to hire the best in the industry, including Vinayak Pradhan from Skrine & Co, a former commissioner with the United Nations Compensation Commission and member of the Permanent Court of Arbitration, to come up with the various detailed reports. Have the reports by Skrine and PwC been so incomplete and inconclusive that the government must set up another task force to investigate further? If that is the case, then the prime minister should demand that the special task force do their homework properly, especially since millions of public funds are being paid to them.
If, however, the special task force has done their investigations diligently and comprehensively, then why is there a need for a separate new “high-powered” task force?
Secondly, it defies logic that the task force will comprise senior officials from the ministries of finance and transport who were, themselves, involved both directly and indirectly with the project, some right from its very inception. How can we expect this new high-powered task force of ministry officials to act impartially and professionally when they themselves are interested parties?
What’s more, many of these officials have been summoned by the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) to assist with the investigation of the PKFZ scandal. The PAC has already found them to have failed or neglected to perform their duties in a responsible and competent manner, as revealed by PAC chairperson Datuk Seri Azmi Khalid.
This leads to the next point that besides the task forces, PAC is also investigating the mega scandal, and so is the Malaysian Anti Corruption Commission (MACC). The latter has been investigating without anything to show since December 2004, when the first Anti-Corruption Agency report on PKFZ was lodged. This means that there are now nine task forces, committees or agencies that are investigating or have investigated the PKFZ scandal.
Najib should not be setting up any more task forces, especially not one led by civil servants with vested interests in PKFZ. The prime minister should instead use the detailed report by the special task force comprising top notch professionals to take appropriate actions against those who have been singled out as having been criminally negligent, who abused powers, were corrupt or defrauded the government.
If the prime minister still insists on another investigating task force, then let it be an independent royal commission of inquiry on PKFZ to ensure that all responsible parties are brought to book, regardless of whether they are current or former ministers, senior or junior civil servants who caused Malaysia this scandal.
MP Petaling Jaya Utara
10 Sept 2009