Opposition: Abolish ‘slush funds’ in PM’s Dep

khalid-samad-liew-chin-tongKUALA LUMPUR: Prime Minister Najib Razak’s office has become a threat to the nation’s resources, claim Opposition politicians.

Commenting on the upcoming 2017 Budget to be presented on Oct 21, Parti Amanah Negara Strategy Director Dzulkefly Ahmad said the difficult economic situation would require cuts to be made to government spending.

He and DAP lawmaker Liew Chin Tong said foremost among these cuts should be discretional development allocations to the Prime Minister’s Department.

“These are what we’ll otherwise call ‘slush funds’,” they said at a press conference here at DAP headquarters today.

“The prime ministerial edifice is now a threat competing for scarce resources with public education, public health and welfare.

“Compared with most other budget items, these discretional allocations provide scant details of their actual intent and can be utilised virtually by a stroke of the prime minister’s pen with very little scrutiny.

“It is a gross abuse of budget processes to have such items and we call for immediate abolition of such items.”

These expenditures, they said, made Najib’s Prime Minister’s Department the “largest ever in Malaysia’s history”, even compared with former Premier Abdullah Badawi.

“The size of the total budget has doubled between 2000 and 2016, from RM111 billion to RM267 billion.

“But the size of the Prime Minister’s Department has increased fourfold in these two years, from RM5.2 billion in 2000 to RM20 billion in 2016.”

They pointed out that the recent increase to RM20 billion this year for Najib’s office was double that of Abdullah’s final year in office in 2008, which had seen RM7 billion channelled to the Prime Minister’s Department.

“It spiked to RM10 billion in 2009 and RM20 billion in 2016. In other words, the figures doubled under Najib’s watch,” they said.

According to the Federal Expenditure Estimates, they said, several ambiguous items in the Prime Minister’s Department development estimates were introduced after Najib assumed office in 2009.

These were namely for the Program pembangunan (development programme), Penyelarasan program pembasmian kemiskinan (coordination of eradication of poverty programme), Projek-projek kecil (small projects), Projek khas (special projects), Projek mesra rakyat (people-friendly projects) and Dana fasilitasi (facilitation fund).

They claimed that these projects had cost RM3 billion in 2016 alone, totalling RM15 billion from 2007 to 2016.

“The discretionary development allocations, or ‘slush funds’, hardly existed before Najib’s premiership.

“The prime minister has absolute discretionary power on how to spend the money.

“Given the fact that Parliament has been weakened by the ruling party over the years, the expenditure for the ambiguous items are neither checked nor audited by the relevant authorities. ‘Slush fund’ is the best description of it.

“Effectively, these funds are money for the cronies.

“We, therefore, call for the abolition of such discretional development allocations and a curb on overall spending by the Prime Minister’s Department,” they said.