PUTRAJAYA: Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai says no ministry funds were used to pay for WWW 15 vehicle registration number and is just as puzzled that the Road Transport Department (RTD) website listed him as the winning bid of RM24,200.
He explained that cabinet ministers and rulers were given an option by RTD to obtain one preferred number without charge. He said he was shocked to discover that his name was listed by the RTD as a successful bidder.
"I don't understand how my name ended up there with the amount when I never bid,"he told The Malay Mail at his office yesterday.
"I'm just as puzzled."He said the matter was explained at Wednesday's cabinet meeting,where it was decided that the Transport Ministry or the RTD should issue a statement to clear the air.
"It is uncalled for,for the RTD to put my name up like that as it has raised a lot of questions and put me in a bad light,"said Liow,adding that he feels he was drawn into what is essentially a non--issue.
The MCA deputy president who was appointed minister in April 2009 said he had not exercised the option to obtain a preferred vehicled registration number until now and that the administrative task of obtaining the number was passed to his officers as he was overseas.
A letter was sent to the RTD requesting the number in the highly--coveted WWW series. Liow said he had not known about the matter until he returned on Sunday and was asked about it during a press conference on Tuesday.
"I was shocked to discover that my name was put up as a bidder for WWW 15 when I did not bid for it and was merely exercising my option,"he said.
He also said he was concerned if officials within the Health Ministry had unknowingly paid RM24,200 for the number.
"If that were the case,I would have immediately demanded that we cancel the option,the ministry be refunded and I would have paid for it out of my own pocket.
"At the end of the day,it is only RM24,200. I can pay it myself!"
The matter was made public after the RTD announced the winning bids for WWW series and Liow was in list.
The Sultan of Johor bid of RM520,000 for WWW 1 was the all--time record.
The matter,however,blew up when Liow fumbled when answering queries during Tuesday's press conference at MCA headquarters where he said he did not know the cost of the bid.
MCA president Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek,who was at the same press conference,in an attempt to help Liow only compounded the situation by saying it was a matter of "from the left hand to the right hand"(from the Health Ministry to the Transport Ministry). Liow then tweeted the next day that he had received the number for free,raising more questions.
"I admit I did not handle it very well because I was not sure what had happened. "I should have just said: 'no comments until I find out what happened because as far as I know I never bid for any numbers," Liow said.
To a question,he acknowledged that Chua's attempts at clarifying the matter made matters worse.
"Yes,it did not help the situation,but he was just trying to help.
"I apologise for the confusion and will get to the bottom of this," he said.
Attempts to get comments from Transport Minister Datuk Seri Kong Chor Ha failed as he did not return phone calls or messages.