DAP MPs wait for full audited accounts after briefing by PERMATA

Permata and DAP MPs and ADUNS at a briefing on Permata

Permata and DAP MPs and ADUNS at a briefing on Permata

PETALING JAYA, Oct 6: DAP MPs and ADUNs today ended a 2-and-a-half hour briefing with representatives from the government early childhood education programme, Permata Negara, on a somewhat dissatisfied note, and is now waiting to receive full audited accounts from Permata and the Permata Foundation.

The closed-door briefing, which was held at the Pusat Anak Permata Negara Kerinchi, was attended by Damansara Utara ADUN Yeo Bee Yin, Serdang MP Ong Kian Ming, and Pulau Tikus ADUN Yap Soo Huey, and led by Permata working committee chairperson Siti Azizah Sheikh Abod and Permata advisor Sharifah Hapsah.

This is the first briefing held since Permata, which is the brainchild of Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak’s wife, Rosmah Mansor, was founded in 2007.  The briefing was held to respond to Yeo’s recent statement that Permata did not have a clear strategic direction despite receiving funding from the government.

However, there were still several issues which the MPs still disagreed on.

“Our main difference in position, which we have brought up many times during the meeting, is: why is there a need for Permata to be under the Prime Minister’s Department (PMD)?

“We believe full ministries would be better equipped. Childcare is under the purview of the Women, Family, and Community Development Ministry and it is the Welfare Department which gives approval for childcare centres. So we do not see a need to have Permata be parked under the PMD. We respect their (Permata) position but we still are in the position that it should be under full ministries and not the PMD,” said Yeo.

Yeo said, the PMD is already bloated and thus, need to be streamlined — work which is supposed to be done by the respective ministries should be returned to said ministries.

Currently, the Permata programme encompasses several different areas of focus, including children with special needs (autism), teens, and gifted children.

Yeo also raised the issue of funding for Permata, which receives around RM40 million in operating expenditure every year. While slides were presented during the briefing on the breakdown of budget for Permata, no audited accounts were provided.

“We were shown slides but we do not have the audited accounts, but we will write a letter (to the Auditor General) for them, and hopefully we’ll receive it soon. We also want to raise the issue of funding from the Permata Foundation, where its funders include several government-linked companies (GLCs), and we request that the accounts be published on the Permata website also,” she said.

Meanwhile, Ong said that the expansion of so many programmes under the Permata umbrella is possibly an “unhealthy phenomena.”

“What is obvious to us is that the PMD has had a lot of additional expenditure. What has started as an idea for early childhood education (ECE) has increased to many other programmes and I feel that although all these initiatives can bring good, this is an unhealthy phenomena, and it may show that other ministries do not have the ability or capacity to handle the issues which are being handled by some of Permata’s programmes,” he said.

In response, Sharifah said, the focus of Permata has only ever been our children.

“How do we see the children of the country, are they assets to the country? We feel the children come first, and how we do this to the best of our ability is that we will listen to all suggestions and ideas and take them into account, but also study what is feasible and what is cost-effective,” she said.

“We saw the need in the beginning and we started something, and so it will evolve organically. And this is what has happened with Permata. Permata rose out of the need and the concern about social ills that we see among the youth and the way to address this, is not to only work on the youth but on long term solutions, and this is what is being brought forward,” she added.

She said that this is why Permata began, and it needed a driver, somebody who would push the agenda forward.

Siti Azizah, who also led the briefing, said during the press conference after the briefing that audited accounts from Ernst & Young for Permata Foundation will hopefully be given to Yeo by next week.

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