Tolled highways come under the jurisdiction of the Malaysian Highway Authority (MHA), a government agency which reports to the Works Ministry.
The chairman of MHA’s board of directors normally gets involved in policy and major decision-making processes that concern all highways, including tolled highways throughout Malaysia.
Together with the works minister, they are responsible for putting together proposals that are presented to the Cabinet for consultation and, ultimately, approval.
Highway concession agreements are signed by MHA on behalf of the government with each concession holder.
MHA is responsible for the execution and enforcement of these long-term agreements, including any variation and structural change within the agreement during the concession period.
None of this falls within the ambit of the finance ministry (MoF).
Given past practices and procedures adopted by Putrajaya, it is rather strange that MoF has now taken over these roles and functions.
Surely individual ministers report to the PM and not to MoF?
Stranger still if a ministerial aide who is not a full-time civil servant takes the liberty of assuming this specific role, sitting down with concession holders to discuss and re-negotiate terms and conditions.
Or when he or she speaks on behalf of the government, as if the government has appointed him or her as the spokesperson.
Can a minister’s aide represent the government?
Meanwhile, has MHA’s jurisdiction been taken over by MoF?
In the past, MoF was never involved in MHA matters. The agency reported to its minister, who then reported to the prime minister.
True, MoF is also seen as an interested party due to its ownership of toll concession companies such as UEM and EPF-related companies.
But it is improper for MoF to take over or even assume such a decisive position as far as tolled highways are concerned.
As such, the turn of events in the issue of buying out four tolled highways appears to be out of the ordinary.
Government officers familiar with administrative procedures, general orders and daily functions find it odd that under Pakatan Harapan, some ministerial aides could become powerful figures in decision-making.
If it is true that MoF has taken over the specialist roles and functions of agencies such as MHA, MoF is seen as making decisions with or without support from the relevant ministers. It is puzzling, to say the least.
Was the works ministry ignored completely? So far, we have not heard from either MHA or the works ministry regarding the highway buy-out.
If MHA has no role, perhaps it should be abolished.
The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.