New Perda boss says probing possible mismanagement

Perda chairman Haniff Khatri Abdulla.

GEORGE TOWN: The new boss of the Penang Regional Development Authority, or Perda, today vowed to clean up and reinvigorate the federal agency.

This includes taking action over a “cheap land sale” which hogged the headlines two years ago.

Haniff Khatri Abdulla said the first thing he had done upon taking the reins of the agency 13 days ago was to seek out possible incidents of mismanagement as he wanted to start on a clean slate.

He said by the end of February, the Perda management might also consider civil action against those involved in any past improprieties in the agency. This includes the sale of Perda land in Nibong Tebal at well below the market price.

“We have formulated units to investigate the matter and have reached 75% in terms of progress in the probe. While we know criminal reports have been lodged (on the cheap land sale), we might pursue civil action for the benefit of the people of Penang.

“Whatever was lost, we will attempt to regain,” he said.

Haniff said he wanted Perda to be at the forefront of efforts to improve the future of Penangites and uplift the state’s economy.

Haniff was speaking to reporters after launching Haliza Food Industries Sdn Bhd’s shipment of healthy crackers to Cambodia. The company had received aid from Perda.

Perda was established on June 1, 1983, as an agency to develop Penang, especially the mainland, under the auspices of the Prime Minister’s Department.

Former Penang chief minister Lim Guan Eng had previously accused Perda of selling a 3.4ha plot of land at Kg Tok Keramat near Maktab Rendah Sains Mara Transkrian, Nibong Tebal, for RM1.42 million when the market value of the land was RM16.6 million.

Lim said the land was sold to SYT Prestige Sdn Bhd on July 28, 2015. He said Perda had acquired the land from the state government in 1986 to build low-cost homes but it was sold off cheap due to soil erosion issues.

The erosion problem led to the demolition of 107 houses on the site and it remained abandoned for 30 years. It was cleared after the land was sold to SYT Prestige.

Former Perda chairman Shabudin Yahaya, who is also Tasek Gelugor MP, had said the land was sold off cheap as it was close to a river and prone to soil erosion.

He said a cost-benefit analysis at the time showed it was no longer worthwhile for Perda to pursue its project there as that would have incurred losses of up to RM10 million.

To this, Lim said the loss would probably be less than half of the amount quoted by Shabudin.

In March 2016, the new owners of the land submitted plans to the Seberang Perai Municipal Council to build 27 shophouses there.

When asked if his appointment as Perda chairman could be considered a political appointment, Haniff said no. He said he was not a member of any political party, merely the legal adviser to Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

“I was legal adviser to the prime minister when he was not the prime minister, and also legal adviser to PPBM and other luminaries of the party. But the fact remains, I am not a member of any party,” he said.

Haniff said he was brought up and raised in Penang, and that his parents had moved to Penang a year after he was born in Klang, Selangor.