A-G Report opens can of worms

The rakyat in urban constituencies will continue to vent their frustrations through the ballot boxes unless efforts are taken by the Government to punish those who misuse taxpayers money.

THE Auditor-General (A-G) has released yet another compilation of damning reports against numerous government and semi-government bodies, and corporate and government-linked companies in the country, listing out in detail internal hanky-panky involving the misuse of financial and material assets.

The latest reports released on Tuesday were just Part One. There will be two more portions.

Part One is already damaging enough, containing details of misdeeds involving millions of ringgit and implicating even the enforcement agencies.

Every year at this time, we citizens get to read about these hanky-panky being committed by those in high office.

We applaud the A-G and his department for doing their job in identifying these misdeeds and management weaknesses.

The rakyat are concerned and angry, and rightly so because much of these billions of ringgit being misused are from our taxes.

However, this abuse of money by those in public and corporate offices seems to be a pattern year in, year out.

The same abuse of monetary and material assets keep on happening year after year and yet no one has ever been arrested and prosecuted for these crimes.

The anti-corruption people and government politicians always react in the same tone that they will investigate and will take action.

They give the same reply every year but I cannot recall ever reading about anyone ever getting nailed or even hauled up for questioning.

Which is worse — the fact that billions of ringgit of our taxes are being wasted, misused, missing and siphoned by people in high places or the fact that these criminals are never brought to justice?

I think the people in the country are not just angry over this misuse of money by government departments and related agencies.

They are as angry with the fact that no one had ever been brought to court and prosecuted over these scandals.

These monetary scandals involved almost every government ministry, department, semi-government body, corporate body and government-linked company.

In the latest report, even the enforcement agencies like the police and customs are mentioned.

Past reports had also implicated the Road Transport Department and others.

The scandals involved improper payment of money, work done not according to specifications, missing cash and material assets worth millions of ringgit, low quality projects, unreasonable delays in terms of completing projects funded by taxpayers money, wastage and leakage of funds to mysterious channels and weaknesses in management of financial and material assets.

These scandals seem to be very widespread. Even in Sarawak, these problems are aplenty.

They are committed in the urban and rural regions.

A few years ago, the A-G mentioned something about the infamous Lapok Road project in Miri Division where several hundred million of ringgit in allocations given by the Federal Government meant for the repair and upgrading of the road had not been used for the purpose.

The Lapok Road is one of the worst roads in the state and country — muddy, slippery, full of potholes everywhere and risky for drivers of all sorts of vehicles.

Until today, the road is still being upgraded and the work rate is still slow.

Why was it that no one had ever been nabbed or questioned over the poor work rate?

The Lapok Road fiasco is just one of many instances where the rakyat feel victimised because public money had not been put to good use.

In other parts of the state, it is also a well-known fact that our roads are in very bad conditions.

Is there a possibility that some of those hired to repair or upgrade these roads are fleecing the Government by using low-quality materials?

They may be cutting corners by using diluted building materials and not following the stipulated conditions laid out in their contracts.

I have heard that some contractors blatantly defied the terms and conditions that they had agreed upon with the Works Ministry.

For example, contractors hired to carry out tar-sealing of a road must cover the road with at least six inches of tar-premix.

I have heard complaints about certain contractors who tar-sealed roads with only three inches of pre-mix and yet charged the Government for the cost of six inches.

They cut corners and earned an extra 50% of profit indecently.

They got away with this because of lack of ground inspection.

The project auditors were not doing their job. Maybe they were cohorts?

Personally, I have come across such dishonest misdeeds being committed by certain contractors hired to construct low-cost houses for the poor in the squatter resettlement schemes in Miri.

Two years ago, I wrote about how the family of a blind man had been fleeced by a contractor hired by the District Office to carry out urgent repairs to his house.

A Federal Government agency had allocated about RM1mil to the District Office to hire contractors to repair the houses of several dozens of very poor families in the city’s outskirts, including the homes of several blind and handicapped people.

These contractors were supposed to repair the leaky roofs, rebuild walls that had cracked, replace old wirings and carry out other necessary repairs and they were allotted a sizeable sum of money for each house.

The blind man called me about a month after his house was repaired. He said his roof was leaking.

I went to inspect the house and found that the contractor had used second-hand zinc to repair the roofs.

He had also failed to repair the portion of the wall that was cracking.

He did not paint the inside of the house.

In other words, he had cheated this blind man by intentionally cutting corners and using second-hand materials.

I wrote a story about this case and there was immediate response from local politicians and a high-ranking government officer attached to a ministry in Putrajaya.

The high-ranking officer in and I brought him to inspect the blind man’s house and he admitted that the contractor had not followed proper specifications.

Apart from an apology and then agreeing to do another round of repairs for the blind man, the cheating contractor was let off the hook.

That very same cheating contractor today can still be seen in the company of politicians in government functions.

The Barisan Nasional Government needs to understand that the rakyat want justice, and they want to see justice invoked and played out before their eyes.

They want to see crooks punished accordingly.

As far as the misuse of taxpayers money is concerned, the Government has not meted out justice.

Is there any wonder the rakyat are angry? They have already demonstrated their anger through the ballot boxes over the past two national elections.

Urban voters are particularly sensitive about these financial misdeeds.

Maybe rural voters are not perturbed, being concerned more about bread and butter issues but urban voters are definitely more demanding in issues concerning human rights, transparency and accountability on the part of those holding public office.

Unless efforts are taken by those in the Government to stop this abuse of taxpayers money and honest efforts taken to prosecute the culprits, the rakyat in the urban constituencies will continue to vent their anger through the ballot boxes.

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