GEORGE TOWN: An Umno assemblyman today hit out at Penang’s management of affordable homes, calling it “incompetent” in the wake of red marks issued against it in the Auditor-General’s Report (AGR) 2016.
Pulau Betong assemblyman Muhammad Farid Saad said the lapses highlighted in the report were also due to the failure to address issues in the state government’s housing distribution.
He added that an urgent overhaul was needed of the placement system which put eligible buyers first.
Pointing out that the AGR had revealed nearly 4,000 people on the waiting list, he said it was high time the Penang government spent some money, instead of hoarding it and “later claiming to be champions of prudence”.
The AGR 2016 Series 1 recently showed lapses in the state’s allocation of affordable homes in which high-income earners were given affordable homes instead of those from the lower-income group.
The report showed four cases of applicants earning above RM8,500, who were given such homes.
Another issue highlighted was the backlog of applicants waiting to rent Peoples’ Housing Project (PPR) and Low-Cost Housing Programme (PPRK) homes.
The AGR said 1,156 applicants had been on the waiting list for more than 15 years.
When contacted, Farid said the revelations were “shocking”.
“Quite shocking to see things like this happening when the state declared it had formed an iron-clad Selection Process Enhancement Committee in 2013 to filter, simplify and improve the allocation of affordable homes in Penang.
“The auditor-general has found weaknesses in the data migration of applications from the old to new system.
“What this translates to is evidence of an incompetent and ignorant Penang government,” he said.
Farid added that it “did not make sense” to have only 436 empty PPR units available and 3,747 applicants on the waiting list, as revealed in the AGR.
“Unfortunately, it is the failure of the state government for failing to rent out the empty PPR homes.
“It is a loss for low-income earners who can rent the unit, and also a loss of revenue for the state government.”
Farid said the large amount amassed in the state’s Low-Cost Public Housing Fund, revealed in the AGR, could be a question of being “penny wise, pound foolish”.
“The taxpayers’ money in the trust fund is not something you collect and show off, to prove a point that you are a prudent government.
“A good state government is one that manages taxpayers’ money well by spending it according to the needs and wants of the rakyat.
“With nearly 4,000 people on the affordable housing waiting list, it is high time the money is put to good use,” he said.
According to the AGR, the trust fund has a balance of RM121.99 million and has not been utilised since 2013.
Farid, who is also the state’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) member, is pushing for a meeting to be convened to discuss the unused trust fund money.
“I insist that the PAC be briefed urgently on these latest findings by the auditor-general,” he said