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PKFZ: Spectre yet to be exorcised

 | June 11, 2012

The issue will never be resolved if the findings of independent panels were perceived to have been buried in the confidential dossiers on the investigators and prosecutors’ desks.

COMMENT

May 28 has always been a red-letter day to me. This year, as we ushered in the uncelebrated third anniversary of the release of Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) audit report commissioned by the independent auditor PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), the multi-billion-ringgit financial debacle remains a relatively sensitive riddle within the corridors of power.

Amid the legal proceeding brought against two former transport ministers, the discerning public, perturbed by the magnitude of the debacle, is certainly yearning for more big names to be brought to the fore of justice.

I raised this (PKFZ) question in Parliament last year but it was, however, rejected on grounds of sub judice. Though disappointed, I could still grudgingly live with it in view of the fact that the probe by both the police and Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) still appears to remain open-ended.

As the immediate past-transport minister who triggered the PwC review of the PKFZ issue and later commissioned a more thorough probe into the 20 points of doubts raised by PwC, the much- laboured findings would certainly remain indelible in my memory.

Though my ministerial tenure was unceremoniously terminated, I am still hopeful to see that the confidential report compiled by the panel would ultimately do the taxpayers’ monies justice by bringing the culprits to book.

Any contemplated bid to obscure the self-revealing findings for fear of creating further damage to the ruling party is deemed inexpedient as any perceived cover-up would only alienate the people further.

The onus is now on such authorities as the police, MACC and Attorney-General’s Chambers as the findings had been handed to them to facilitate investigation as early as August 2009.

How long would they take to conclude their probe is beyond the realm of public knowledge. But it is within my right to seek clarification on the current status of the findings collectively compiled by the panel members who are helming the various professional bodies.

It would be unkind to accuse anybody revisiting the issue of thirsting for the blood of those culprits implicated in the debacle. But any inaction to punish the perpetrators of the alleged fraudulent claims in the mammoth project would readily be misconstrued as a form of tacit connivance of misdeeds designed to challenge the check-and-balance mechanisms within the establishment.

To the discerning taxpayers, the ultimate punishment of the perpetrators under the laws of the land is not going to mark the end of the episode so long as no serious recovery of public funds that had been fraudulently siphoned off is made.

Likewise, the taxpayers cannot simply turn a blind eye to the challenging future of the mega-transhipment hub in the face of its present difficulties in turning it around.

On June 10, 2009, hardly two weeks after the release of the PwC report, three independent panels were immediately established by me as the then minister to explore the possibilities of turning around the project, in addition to recommending structural revamp of statutory bodies to facilitate good corporate governance, especially within all port authorities and deep-diving into the 20 anomalies raised by PwC.

The turnaround task was swiftly taken over by the high-powered Cabinet committee headed by the Chief Secretary of the Cabinet.

No progress at all

But todate, no sign of a turnaround has ever been sighted. The repeated appeals to the Ministry of Finance (MOF) to reschedule the high-profile RM4.6 billion loan with a downward revision of interest rate from 4% to 2% went unheeded.

The perceived elusiveness on the part of the Ministry of Transport (MOT) in answering a pertinent question of mine on March 15, 2012 in Parliament had somewhat further clouded the less optimistic scenario.

My question focused on the present arrears of the PKA (Port Klang Authorities) loan for the project and how would MOT endeavour to ensure PKA can afford to repay the outstanding loan based on the present schedule and interest rate, given that the present revenue generated by the PKFZ project could hardly defray the hefty debts.

As expected, my question that was numbered 71st ( the last question of the day in the order paper) was destined to be out of reach from the 90-minute time frame set for the parliamentary oral questions.

This had further led to the total denial of any opportunities for me to raise supplementary question on the subject matter.

Much to my dismay, the written answer I received did not address my question. The minister replied that so far PKA had used up a whopping RM2.6 billion from the government loans to service the debts.

This might raise many eyebrows but it was not in the question at all. On PKA’s ability to service the debts, the reply appeared even more inexplicable, if not incoherent, when it was said that one of PKA’s options is to apply to MOF for rescheduling the loan as well as revising its terms and conditions.

All in all, the minister was coy about answering the key questions I raised. I was merely told something that I myself had been pursuing while I was the minister, that is, seeking rescheduling of the loans.

This simply implies that there has been no progress at all in the probe after I exited from the Cabinet two years ago.

Those in the corridors of powers may have good reasons to frown upon me whenever I bring up the issue.

Nonetheless, to me and many others who have no personal vested interests in the project, the spectre of PKFZ could never be exorcised as long as the findings of the independent panels were perceived to have been buried in the confidential dossiers on the investigators and prosecutors’ desks.

The writer is the immediate past transport minister and MCA president. He is also the Pandan MP.


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