Court orders ex-PKA GM to pay damages over PKFZ fiasco

SHAH ALAM: The High Court has ordered former Port Klang Authority (PKA) general manager OC Phang to pay damages to the statutory body over losses suffered in the construction of the Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ).

Judge M Gunalan ordered the senior assistant registrar to assess the damages, and fixed interest at 5% from the date the cause of action accrued until the settlement of the judgment sum.

PKA called eight witnesses while Phang’s lawyers closed their case without calling any.

Gunalan said Phang decided not to call key witnesses although several names surfaced during the trial including a former transport minister.

“This was important to her claim that she had acted under their instructions without the need to refer to the PKA board of directors,” he said.

He said Phang owed fiduciary, contractual and common law duties to PKA.

As such, Gunalan said she could not bypass PKA’s board and unilaterally obtain instructions from the Minister of Transport or Minister of Finance before entering into and committing PKA into binding agreements with huge financial implications.

In light of her position in PKA, the judge said it was erroneous for Phang to contend that Treasury guidelines were not applicable to her or not known to her.

“Phang cannot, in principle, rely on the protection of the Transport Minister in defence of her conduct if it is contrary to the laws and duties owed by her to PKA,” he said.

The judge said Phang’s conduct, in her capacity as general manager, was unlawful in executing the agreements and letters of undertaking without prior approval or reference to the board.

Gunalan said Phang’s actions had resulted in the dire financial position of PKA at the material time, which was not brought to the notice of the transport minister.

Gunalan said PKA’s complaints were supported by witnesses, and corroborated by the Auditor-General’s Office and the Public Accounts Committee.

Former PKA chairman Lee Hwa Beng has testified that Phang failed in her duties as the general manager, bypassed the board, and that PKA could not afford to build the PKFZ project in a single phase.

PKA was represented by Lim Chee Wee, Khoo Guan Huat, Nimalan Devaraja and Anjili Gunendran, while Matthew Thomas Philip and Lavinia Kumaraendran appeared for Phang.