A-G’s report: Covid-19 fund set up by govt to fund stimulus package, economic recovery

PETALING JAYA: The government set up the Covid-19 Fund, which came into force on Oct 27, 2020, under subsection 4(1) of the Temporary Measures Act.

According to the Auditor General’s Report, the fund was set up to certify the monies derived under subsection 3(1) of the Loan (Local) Act 1959 and whatever other funds received under subsection 3(1) of the Government Funding Act 1983 for the purpose of expenditure towards the stimulus package, as well as the economic recovery plan.

The original amount fixed for the Covid-19 Fund was RM45bil but it was increased to RM110bil on Nov 17, 2021 under relevant laws.

The report said the increase was aimed at funding four monetary aid and stimulus packages for 2021, as announced by the government, encompassing a total of RM225bil.

In 2021, the aid and economic stimulus packages with the highest amount were the People’s Protection Package and the Economic Recovery Package, amounting to RM150bil.

The biggest expenses under the funds revolved around cash handouts, subsidies and grants given to target groups under various programmes covering financial aid, wages subsidy, employment retention, employment opportunities, training aid and Geran Prihatin PKS initiative, which all came up to RM28.306bil, covering 75.1% of the 2021 allocated funds of RM39bil.

The report also stated that it saw an increase in expenses in 2021 compared with 2020 in the social support aid given to vulnerable groups, allocation for expenses in relation to Covid-19 and electricity bill discounts.

In 2021, a total of RM2.811bil, an increase of RM2.714bil, compared with 2020’s RM96.93mil, was spent on vulnerable groups to implement 20 sub-programmes as opposed to only four sub-programmes in 2020.

The biggest amount included monies channelled towards the cooking oil price stabilisation aid scheme, as well as help given to those who had lost their jobs.

Under the cooking oil scheme, RM1.186bil went towards subsidising bottled cooking oil, which was a separate allocation from the RM0.976bil subsidy allocated towards subsidising the cost of cooking oil in 1kg poly bags each.

The report said the subsidy for cooking oil was intended to counter the rising cost of living faced by the people as a result of the increase in oil palm commodity prices in the market.

The B40 families were also given aid for free Internet access to online education.

This programme involved Internet data plan subsidy costing RM180 each, as well as a one-off smart device subsidy between RM180 and RM300 for recipients of the Bantuan Prihatin Rakyat, who meet the requirements.

A total of 12 telecommunication companies participated in the programme with an expenditure of RM600mil.

In addition, a sum of RM434mil was also channelled with RM500 each to be distributed to almost 870,000 people who lost their jobs in 2021.

Monies spent for Covid-19 related expenses amounted to RM2.686bil in 2021, an increase of RM1.895bil from 2020, which stood at RM791.15mil.

As for electricity bill discounts in 2021, the amount came up to RM489.50mil, an increase of 175.7% or RM311.97mil compared with RM177.53mil in 2020.

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