Monkey business at the national zoo, says MTUC

PETALING JAYA: The Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) has called for a corruption probe into what it says could be “hanky panky” in the management of Zoo Negara, following a report that the 56-year-old national zoo is suffering from a lack of funds to improve its facilities.

The union said the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission should begin by investigating the zoo’s failure to build quarters for its workers despite getting RM1.6 million from the government in 2001.

MTUC secretary-general J Solomon said the allocation was for the construction of seven three-room apartments, adding that it was “grossly over-priced”.

“But even so, the apartments were never delivered to the workers,” he said in a statement.

He said MTUC’s complaint to the water, land and natural resources ministry – which oversees the zoo – as well as the human resources ministry, has not received a response.

Solomon claimed there was “growing discontent” among zoo workers on the manner in which contracts were awarded.

He said the Malaysian Zoological Society which runs Zoo Negara should come clean and explain its weak financial position despite receiving substantial allocations from the government.

“The board must dispel any allegations of nepotism or favouritism both in their appointments and in awarding contracts to carry out various works in Zoo Negara,” Solomon said.

Yesterday, Zoo Negara deputy president Rosly @ Rahmat Ahmat Lana said the zoo was facing a shortage of funds to upgrade the facilities.

He also said that a five-year federal grant of RM5 million was stopped in 2004.

“We have no problem with running the zoo on a daily basis, to pay staff salaries to our staff and manage the animals that we keep in here. We can still bear the costs out of visitors’ fees,” said Rosly.

“But it is just impossible to upgrade the zoo as it will cost us a lot of money which we don’t have.”

Rosly said ticket collection was only enough for the upkeep of the animals, as well as for general maintenance and staff salaries.

Solomon said any more public funds for the zoo should only be given if financial irregularities are addressed.

“There must be a proper investigation on how the zoo is being run,” he said.