MACC to probe claims on Covid-19 food aid as rep explains ‘below RM100’ packages

A photo of food items said to have been given to some households in Sabah. A ruling assemblyman says the amount of food items has to be reduced to ensure that aid reaches more people.

KOTA KINABALU: The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) is investigating allegations of irregularities in the distribution of food following claims that people have been shortchanged in food aid under Sabah’s Covid-19 stimulus package.

This comes after images shared on social media showing food packages worth less than the RM100 per assistance promised under the state’s stimulus package, purportedly distributed to several constituencies.

“We have set up a task force to monitor the procurement of the food items and their distribution on the ground,” Sabah MACC director Karunanithy Y Subbiah said in a statement.

He said the state MACC would assist in ensuring no leakages in the distribution of aid to those affected by the nationwide movement control order (MCO).

A blog had earlier claimed that food items consisting of rice, sugar, cooking oil and canned food did not add up to RM100, questioning if there had been misappropriation of funds.

Chief Minister Shafie Apdal last week announced a RM670 million rescue plan to help overcome the impact of the deadly virus in the state.

Of this, RM20 million is for essential food items such as rice, flour, sugar and others for all villages in Sabah.

The Chief Minister’s Department reportedly disbursed RM100,000 to each district and sub-district office in constituencies statewide as payment for the items under the basic food necessities assistance package.

Warisan’s Merotai assemblyman Sarifuddin Hatta said in some cases, the package sent to each household had to be reduced so that aid could be channelled to others who are more needy.

He said in his constituency, there are about 50 areas and villages.

“If we distribute to 1,000 families at RM100 per assistance, that means only 20 families per village will obtain the assistance.

“So to be fair, we reduced the number of items but we increased the number of recipients. If it’s RM25 for rice and RM11.50 for eggs, the total would be RM37.50.”

He said tweaking the amounts ensured that aid could reach more than 3,000 families.

“In fact, in Merotai, we distributed (food items) to 5,000 families,” he said on Facebook.

He said the total spent for the 5,000 families would still be in excess of the RM100,000 allocation, adding that he had to fork out his own money including by giving up three months of his salary.

Sarifuddin said those not categorised as poor were also given aid as their livelihood had also been affected.

“So instead of giving to only 1,000 families, we divided the amount according to the population of the area and reduced the food items so that more people can receive help,” Sarifuddin said.