Open inquiry mulled over missing RM18bil GST refunds


KUALA LUMPUR: Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng will propose to hold an open inquiry to clear the air over the RM18bil in Goods and Services Tax (GST) input tax credit.

“I will propose to Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad that an open inquiry is held as an investigation will clearly show what had taken place.

“There are documents and paper trails to show this,” said Lim while wrapping up the debates on the Customs (Amendments) Bill 2018 in Parliament yesterday.

He said the proposal would only be made to the Prime Minister and the Cabinet after the completion of an internal probe by his ministry.

An open inquiry would allow the public to know the real picture, he added.

Earlier during the debates, Tan Sri Annuar Musa (BN-Ketereh) lauded the move by Lim to conduct an internal inquiry.

However, he urged Lim not to use the word “rob” until the matter had been cleared.

On Tuesday, Lim said the previous administration had “robbed” and “misappropriated” the input tax credit under GST.

He said money meant for the Government’s trust fund account had gone into the consolidated fund and was considered as revenue.

Annuar said the issue over the funds may have been due to technicalities and financial procedures.

Both Annuar and Khairy Jamaluddin (BN-Rembau) requested Lim to provide a breakdown of the “missing” RM18bil to determine how much of it was disputed input tax claims and how much was deliberately withheld by the government.

Lim, however, did not specify the breakdown, merely saying there was insufficient monies in the trust fund account to repay claimants.

The debates had kicked off with Beluran lawmaker Datuk Seri Dr Ronald Kiandee raising Standing Order 36 (12) claiming that Lim had misled the House with his response over the last two days on the input tax refund issue.

He alleged that Lim had used the word perompak (robber), which implied that the RM18bil had been misappropriated for “personal use” by members of the previous Barisan Nasional-led government.

He called for Lim to be cited to the Rights and Privileges Committee, which drew the opposition of several Pakatan Harapan lawmakers.

R.S.N Rayer (PH-Jelutong) came to Lim’s defence, saying that Lim had given former Cabinet ministers the opportunity to explain themselves, and yet they remained silent.

Deputy Speaker Nga Kor Ming then called for order and said he took note of Kiandee’s move.

“I acknowledge that all MPs must take responsibility for their words and the Finance Minister did use that term.

“However, the Finance Minister clarified the matter and also gave the opportunity to former Cabinet ministers to explain themselves,” said Nga.

He ruled that Lim did not mislead the House.

The Customs Bill was eventually passed, together with the Free Zones (Amendment) Bill 2018, which was passed without any debate.

At the Parliament lobby later, Kiandee, who is also Public Accounts Committee chairman, said he would bring the matter to the committee.

Meanwhile, Lim challenged former Treasury secretary-general Tan Sri Mohd Irwan Serigar Abdullah to show where is the allegedly missing money due for refund.

“He should tell us where is the rest of RM19.4bil.

“If it is there, we would have paid back by now. If he said it is there, we want him to tell us where it is hidden. Perhaps he knows something that all of us do not know,” he told reporters at the Parliament lobby.

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