PUTRAJAYA: Grants amounting to millions of ringgit channelled to hundreds of non-governmental organisations (NGO) to help the Indian community were misused and a part of it taken up for “personal gain.”
Checks by the National Audit Department showed that the funds were allocated through Sedic (Socioeconomic Development of the Indian Community), a unit set up by the previous Barisan Nasional government and placed under the Prime Minister’s Department.
Based on announcements made by the previous administration, over RM230mil had been disbursed through operating and development expenditures to implement programmes and projects for the Indian community since 2014.
Sedic had been tasked to give out grants and assistance to Indian NGOs to manage programmes in aid of the community.
Since Pakatan Harapan took over, Sedic was disbanded and renamed as the Malaysian Indian Transformation Unit (Mitra) and remains under the Prime Minister’s Department.
Mitra director-general S. Letchumanan said a preliminary report by the National Audit Department showed that most of the grants were not used to carry out programmes for the Indian community.
“Instead, some NGOs bought assets for their organisations. Some of the NGOs were family-run entities with the office bearers comprising family members.
“Some of them have disappeared, with checks showing that the NGOs gave fake addresses,” he told The Star in an interview.
Letchumanan said about 800 NGOs had received funding from Sedic previously, with most of them facing “problems”.
“Once we get a more details, we will blacklist the NGOs. We plan to lodge reports with the police and Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission as it was a clear misappropriation of public funds,” he added.
He said although the NGOs had signed an MoU with Sedic, “there was no legal bearing”.
The MoU signed between Sedic and the NGOs required the latter to have separate bank accounts and submit reports, but were not complied with, he revealed.
Since taking over last December, Letchumanan said Mitra had conducted its own internal audit and preliminary categorising of the NGOs into the various star-ratings.
He said Mitra had also set several criteria to avoid further abuse of the system.
“We came up with a set of requirements and SOPs for NGOs that want to apply for grants from us,’’ he said.
Other changes included having to sign a legally binding agreement with funds disbursed only on a staggered basis.
“We will now do progressive payments and are also encouraging long-term programmes and trainings lasting between six and nine months.
“We also want some of these long-term programmes and trainings to have hand-holding sessions,” he said.
He said Mitra also invited private companies and higher learning institutions to have strategic working partnerships to come up with programmes for the community.
“There are loads of expertise out there and we are working with them. We have asked for customised programmes in niche areas,’’ he said.
Letchumanan said RM100mil was allocated for Mitra to conduct programmes and trainings for social economic development of the Indian community.
As of March, he said Mitra received 414 applications for assistance, with RM18.4mil approved for use so far.