If the minister fails to provide a proper explanation for the RM1.8 million 'splurge', an opposition MP warns that netizens may bay for her blood.
Speaking in Parliament, DAP’s Rasah MP Anthony Loke said there was palpable discontent against the amount spent when it could have been attained at almost no cost.
Loke highlighted two Facebook pages regarding the matter, the “1 million Malaysians say no to RM1.8 million” and “Curi-curi wang Malaysia”, the latter being a twist of the ministry’s famous tagline “Cuti-cuti Malaysia”.
“These are very creative. Within 18 hours the ‘Curi-Curi wang Malaysia’ page already has 11,380 ‘likes’ – already half of the Tourism Malaysia’s Facebook site. And it is free!” he told reporters.
The Citrawarna 1Malaysia Facebook page attracted a total of 20,292 Facebook “likes” since its launch on May 21 this year.
A quick check by FMT revealed that “Curi-Curi wang Malaysia” currently had 14, 232 “likes” whereas “1 million Malaysians say no to RM1.8 million” had 749 “likes”.
Loke said the online community was upset that taxpayers’ money was being splurged on things that could have been done for free.
Yesterday, Deputy Tourism Minister James Dawos Mamit told Parliament that his ministry spent close to RM1.8 million to create six Tourism Malaysia Facebook applications.
He had justified the cost, saying: “This covers the creative works, concepts and ideas, design, flash programming, coding, testing and debugging, uploading and launching of applications, system server development and maintenance, development of database from the contest, campaign management and monitoring as well as online advertisements and fan recruitment on Facebook and Google.”
However, Loke had rubbished this, arguing that DAP created similar Facebook fan pages and flash applications at no cost.
‘Another splurge campaign’
During this afternoon’s press conference, the Rasah MP said: “No one can explain the situation except Yen Yen herself.”
He also warned that if the minister did not provide an adequate response, then there could be online campaigns calling for her resignation.
Loke also criticised Ng for not coming to Parliament to “face him or the media” to explain the matter.
“Rather, she has given a statement to MCA’s mouthpiece, the Star. She said that the costs were important as the tourism sector was one of the main revenue earners for the country,” he said.
“We agree that the tourism industry is important but why spend so much on something that can be gotten for free,” asked Loke.
According to the Star report, Ng said the RM1,758,432 allocation by the ministry to develop its Facebook page professionally was part of its social media campaign.
She added that it was a small amount compared to that spent by other countries in the region.
However, Loke said the contract awarded to Impact Creations should be suspended immediately and the money given to the company returned.
Impact Creations was engaged to run an advertising campaign to promote domestic tourism among younger Malaysians who were more tech-savvy.
Loke also said that the latest development would dent Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak’s effort to engage the online community.
Najib, he added, had been active in engaging the online community but Ng was jeopardising this effort.
DAP stalwart Lim Kit Siang, who was also at the press conference, said this was another splurge campaign by the government.
“RM27 million was spent on the youth gathering for three days and now this… (it just shows) there is more unrestrained and uncontrolled expenditure (now),” he said.
Ng: Australia spending RM150 m
In a later development, Ng clarified that the RM1.8 million allocation was not solely to be used to set up the Facebook pages.
She said that the allocation was for a full social media branding campaign and lashed out at her critics. She added that Australia was spending much more for the same purpose.
“The allocation is for responding, informing, interaction and monitoring (work on the Facebook page), evaluation, data collecting, content development and advertising on Google, Facebook, etc…
“(Do) you think it’s cheap (to set this up)? Tourism Australia is spending RM150 million for the next three years on social media,” she told reporters here today.
She also brushed aside accusations that Impact Creations was picked due to the close relation she shared with the company’s consultant Juni Ewe.
“Everybody is my friend. 45 years in politics! I am also friends with (others who have won Tourism Malaysia projects),” said Ng.
She added tha company was chosen as a result of its good concept. The company was also financially and technically sound, added the minister.