KUCHING: A Sarawak minister has questioned a DAP assemblyman for saying the RM1 billion debt with the federal government, to be set off against payment for upgrade works on dilapidated schools in the state, should first be placed into a federal government consolidated fund.
State Education, Science and Technological Research Minister Michael Manyin said the education ministry had agreed that the money be deposited into a special account to be managed together by Putrajaya and the Sarawak government.
Earlier, Chong Chieng Jen (DAP-Kota Sentosa) said financial transparency demanded that the money be paid to the federal government’s consolidated account as it is a federal grant.
He said this would ensure that the school projects are carried out through open tender.
But Manyin said Education Minister Maszlee Malik was more sincere in addressing the problem of dilapidated schools in Sarawak.
“We would to like put on record our thanks and gratitude to Maszlee and his staff for their understanding, genuine and sincere efforts at resolving this issue, unlike Chong who talked without knowing the full story and who does not offer any solution to the issue.
“It looks like Maszlee is more concerned about Sarawak than Chong,” he told the Sarawak legislative assembly today.
Manyin said once money is paid to the consolidated fund, it would have to go through the Economic Planning Unit (EPU) and Parliament before the budget can be allocated.
“This would definitely take considerable time and would delay the upgrading of schools that are already in critical condition,” he said.
“Further, there is no guarantee that the RM1 billion paid will be fully allocated for dilapidated schools in Sarawak, as the EPU and Parliament can decide how the money should be used.”
He said Chong’s claim that the money would be misused by the state was baseless, calling it cheap political mileage.
“For his information, all school projects have always been under the Federal Tender Board, and the state has no say in the procurement process,” he said.
He said a tripartite committee consisting of the finance and education ministries and the Sarawak government would be established to manage the fund and oversee the project, followed by an agreement between the federal and Sarawak governments to ensure that the RM1 billion is spent only on dilapidated schools in the state.
Manyin said he hoped to receive approval from the finance ministry on the matter before the Gawai celebration on June 1.