Using zakat funds for mega projects?

KUCHING: Tabung Baitulmal Sarawak’s (TBS) alleged penchant for spending hundreds of millions of the zakat (tithe) collections on mega complexes is riling DAP’s Muslim members.

Bandar Kuching MP Chong Chieng Jen’ special assistant Abdul Aziz Isa is bent on getting TBS to explain their extravagance which has allegedly resulted in many poor and needy Muslims in the community being deprive or reduced of aid.

Abdul Aziz yesterday detailed the TBS projects and questioned the rationale behind pumping huge amounts of tithe money into these projects.

He listed the Islamic Information Centre (IIC) and Kuching Islamic Complex (KIC), both in Kuching, and the soon-to-be-constructed Sibu Islamic Complex (SIC) and Miri Islamic Complex (MIC) (photo), as TBS’ mega-projects.

“Which law in Islam that allows the TBS to use its zakat money to build such buildings?” asked Abdul Aziz, who also manages DAP’s service centre in Tupong, Kuching.

Earlier this month Abdul Aziz said he had written to TBS on Aug 20 to ask for the charitable body’s financial reports for the years 2010 to 2012 but was yet to get a reply.

Abdul Aziz had written to TBS in response to state assistant minister for Islamic affairs, Daud Abdul Rahman’s disclosure that TBS had used money from zakat contributions to fund the projects but it had not stopped their aid to the poor.

“The main issue here is the management of the fund and the priorities of the use of fund. What is the annual revenue of TBS?

“What is there to boast (about) when TBS is spending hundreds of millions to build posh offices and only spending RM2 million annually for the poor?”

“It is meaningless if TBS is getting hundreds of millions from the zakat payers, government funding and other sources while only giving RM2 million for the poor,” Aziz added.

It’s public funds

TBS, he said, must be transparent and accountable to public and be ready at all time to release its financial reports to any member of the public.

“They (TBS) should have copies of their financial statement ready for public inspection and viewing at any time. It is incredulous that TBS took a month and yet still fail to respond to a request from a member of the public to have copies of its financial report.

“TBS has its main source of revenue from the zakat paid by the Muslims. It is just like an alternative Inland Revenue Board, collecting tax from the public.

“As such, it owes the public a duty to make full and frank disclosure of the management of its fund. The zakat payers want to know how TBS used their zakat money and where their money goes,” Aziz stated.

He also added that having received no reply from TBS for his earlier letter, he had on Sept 11 sent another one.

Meanwhile online investigative portal, Sarawak Report reported that although TBS spent between RM30 million to RM40 million annually to help the needy and poor, the amounts ‘pale into insignificance besides the hundreds of millions allocated to several majestic “Islamic Centres’ being built in Kuching, Miri and Sibu”.

One such centre in Kuching was RM90 million and being constructed by Naim Cendera, a company strongly identified with Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud, and chaired by his cousin Hamed Sepawi.

Similar projects worth RM100 million were also commisisoned by the TBS board in Sibu and Miri.

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Baitulmal S’wak cutting aid to poor?