ON THE BEAT
By WONG CHUN WAI
THE Port Klang Free Trade Zone (PKFZ) report has finally been released with complete findings and key personalities named.
For the public, the question is: What next? We have seen similar reports made, headlined and followed with demands for actions but pretty soon, such reports usually gather dust and are quickly forgotten.
We have heard statements by officials from the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) before, promising tough action but only seen these statements turning into nothing.
That’s why Malaysians are sometimes cynical about high profile cases involving public money and powerful figures who seem untouchable.
The PKFZ report has wide implications, both political and business, and the readiness of the Government to release it is highly commendable.
It is probably for the first time, in a such long time, that the opposition has actually openly given credit to the Government.
For this, we must salute Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and Transport Minister Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat.
It might have taken a little longer than expected but it was essential to tie up the loose ends, especially the crucial legal requirements.
At least one newspaper which reported this case has received a legal letter and it would be no surprise if lawyers are scrutinising every word written by the press on the PKFZ issue.
The point is that the report has been made public, as promised by Ong. The public has every right to know because the costs to be incurred are very big, ballooning from an estimated RM7.453bil mainly due to interest costs and could go as high as RM12.5bil should the Port Klang Authority (PKA) default on its loan repayments in the years ahead.
It’s a staggering figure – six times bigger than the RM2.5bil scandal involving prominent personalities who diverted the money from Bumiputra Malaysia Finance (BMF) into private accounts in 1983.
The case which went through the courts in London, Hong Kong and Kuala Lumpur unveiled the loss of RM660mil of taxpayers’ money. One auditor sent to investigate the case in Hong Kong ended up being murdered.
The PKFZ and BMF are two separate cases and we have no intention of making any comparisons but the crux of the issue is the need to protect public money.
It is a refreshing bold start by the Najib Administration which has advocated transparency and accountability with the people’s interest first.
The MACC has revealed that it has completed its initial investigations and would compare what it has gathered with the findings of Pricewaterhouse-Coopers Advisory Services.
The MACC said its preliminary report had been submitted to its Legal and Prosecution Division for the next the phase of action.
The public want to see serious follow up action so that questions will be answered.
They want to know, and certainly have the right to know, how mismanagement had taken place, resulting in the fiasco, and whether there had been possible potential cases of conflict of interest. How extensive was the disregard for transparency and accountability, and who else were involved in the decisions?
The Transport Ministry has taken immediate steps such as seeking professional advice on the restructuring of PKA’s financial obligations, improving and tightening governance at PKA’s management and board levels and beefing up day-to-day management of PKFZ.
It is understood that PKA is already working with legal advisers and financial consultants to carry out the minister’s directives.
That is on the part of the Transport Ministry. As for the MACC and the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), Malaysians want them to pursue the case without fear or favour.
The dogged determination by the leadership to uphold transparency and accountability would mean nothing if it remains just a report with no real action taken at the end of the day.
It could even backfire if the public feel that the probe was merely to appease them but with no intention of punishing those who mismanaged public money either because of incompetency or for other reasons. Justice must not only be done but seen to be done.
A tough decision has been made by Najib and Ong and they can be assured that the public fully support them, especially if blatant abuses of power and disregard for governmental procedures and guidelines are exposed.
Ong, for example, has said: “It has been a long journey for me personally. It is one that is fraught with challenges and hurdles both from within and without.”
Only the MCA president himself would know the difficulties, anxieties and pressure involved. Even any private company with limited resources would have their company rules and governance and in the case of PKFZ, the report has made some shocking revelations.
We expect the authorities, particularly MACC and PAC, to act accordingly and swiftly too, That’s what the “People First, Performance Now” slogan is about, isn’t it?