By Clara Chooi
KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 17 — An MCA minister appeared today to suggest that voters may forgive Barisan Nasional (BN) of its slights in the Auditor-General’s Report as the electorate could see how much the government has improved over the past year.
Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said the report released on Monday should be viewed positively as it was a clear reflection of the government’s willingness to be held accountable to any of its transgressions.
“The rakyat will look at this report positively.
“I think the rakyat will understand that we have improved quite a lot compared to the last A-G’s report... you see... we are improving,” the MCA deputy president (picture) told reporters in Parliament here when asked if he felt the report would affect voter confidence in BN.
“The rakyat will give a chance to the government to further improve on accountability and the management of public funds.”
Liow was asked to comment on Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat’s rebuttal to MCA president Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek’s claim that the A-G’s report would not affect BN’s support in the coming polls.
Ong, who is Dr Chua’s predecessor in the party, took to Twitter to attack his political foe today, writing: “Why must Auditor’s report b (sic) mocked as cloutless (sic) in affecting GE outcome?
“50 yrs ago it might hv no impact doesn’t mean it’s d (sic) same now.”
Yesterday, Dr Chua had sought to play down the A-G’s report, saying if it had any effect then the BN government would fall every year.
The MCA president had said that Pakatan Rakyat (PR) would certainly exploit reports of mismanagement, but he argues that the BN federal government would not be judged solely on the issue of poor management.
But Liow added today that any government officer found guilty of any wrongdoing should be punished accordingly, to ensure that mistakes are not repeated.
“Whatever wrongdoing in there (the report) should be corrected, certain officers should be punished... then the country can grow,” he said.
The health minister said the government and MCA have never taken for granted the comments made by the A-G in the federal audit, adding that this shows a willingness to be held accountable.
Analysts have said that the A-G’s report, which had revealed several projects that were directly negotiated and were plagued with issues, could impact the level of trust in government.
The most glaring example was the directly negotiated RM12.49 billion Ipoh-Padang Besar double-tracking project which was delayed twice and has incurred an additional RM3.6 billion in costs.
“That is why we need to look into our procurement system. The government is such a big bureaucracy that all these need to be scrutinised so that positive measures can be mooted as improvements,” Liow suggested.
Other examples include 1,000 brochure racks worth RM1.95 million for Visit Malaysia Year 2007 bought through direct negotiation by the Malaysian Tourism Promotion Board without the Finance Ministry’s approval, resulting in a probe by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), and the five billboards worth RM3.64 million that it put up in Indonesia via direct negotiation that are also being investigated by anti-graft officials.
Military family quarters built by the Defence Ministry saw costs nearly double to RM3.2 billion amid a litany of defects including collapsed ceilings and leaking sewer pipes, according to revelations in the Auditor-General’s Report 2011.
Among others, the report found that the majority of the military quarters projects audited were awarded by direct negotiation and that the government waived penalties worth RM87.12 million for failure to meet contractual obligations.
Transparency International Malaysia president Datuk Paul Low said the direct negotiation method of awarding contracts could potentially give rise to problems such as corruption and lack of competition.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak has pledged his commitment to open tenders, saying at the launch of the Economic Transformation Programme (ETP) in 2010 that competitive tenders for big projects would be the “default” option.
Despite efforts to boost transparency, including making corruption one of the National Key Result Areas in the GTP, Malaysia slipped four spots to 60th in Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index last year.