Of cows, condominiums and corruption

by Lim Kit Siang

The Auditor-General Report 2010 on the continuing horror stories about misappropriation and waste of public funds, criminal breach of trust, negligence and gross abuses of power is a damning indictment on the first full-year Najib premiership.

It demonstrated that nothing has really changed despite grandiloquent sloganeering of “1Malaysia, People’s First, Performance Now” in terms of government efficiency, effectiveness, accountability, transparency and integrity.

However, it is an even greater indictment on the Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin as it exposes his personal and direct ministerial responsibility for the RM300 million National Feedlot Centre (NFC) and National Feedlot Corporation (NFCorp) scandals, as it was during his tenure as Agriculture Minister that the troubled and  controversial project was approved.

Who else apart from Muhyiddin  should bear the full and final responsibility for the NFC “mess”?

* The objective of the project on cattle production to boost the nation’s beef self-sufficiency could go so wrong as  NFC not only failed to meet this target;

* The RM250 million 2%-interest soft loan had been  diverted not only to buy two luxury condominiums in Bangsar but also for other dubious transactions,  as exposed by PKR Secretary-General Saifuddin Nasution and PKR chief of strategy Rafizi Ramli.

NFCorp was awarded the NFC project on 27 October 2006 and the RM250 million 2%-interest soft loan for NFCorp was signed on 6 December 2007 – both falling within the period when  Muhyiddin was the Agriculture Minister.

Undoubtedly, Muhyiddin is more responsible for the NFC scandal than the current Agriculture Minister Datuk Noh Omar.

As Minister directly responsible for the NFC scandals, Muhyiddin should have explained the deepening controversy over the NFC scandal. Why government scrutiny, supervision and monitoring of the project and in particular the soft loan was so lax or even non-existent  as to allow such gross breach of trust and abuse of public funds to take place?

Instead, Muhyiddin kept a discreet silence, leaving to others like Noh Omar and the NFCorp executive chairman Datuk Seri Dr. Mohamad Salleh Ismail, the husband of Minister for Women, Family and Community Development Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil, to do all the explaining.

But only Muhyiddin himself can explain his ministerial lapses which have resulted in the RM300 million NFC project becoming such a mess and scandal today!

Let Muhyiddin appear before the Parliamentary Accounts Committee (PAC) to explain his sins of commission or omission as Agriculture Minister before the 2008 general elections resulting in the NFC scandals – and let him explain the extent of Cabinet involvement or approval for the NFC project.

The NFC has lived up to its reputation as a “high impact project” although in a very perverse manner, not in terms of fulfilling its objective to attain 40% self-sufficiency for beef production by 2010. Instead it raised the hosts of issues about government efficiency, effectiveness, accountability, transparency and integrity in the past month since the Auditor-General’s 2010 Report focused spotlight on its operations.

From 2007 to 2010, the government had spent RM48.71 million to develop the project.  The government has also given a RM13 million launching grant to NFCorp. This means that the  total public outlay in the controversial NFC project exceeded RM300 million.

Malaysians would like to know from Najib whether his slogan of “People First, Performance Now” has real meaning and whether he is on the same wavelength with the majority of people who are shocked by the NFC scandal.

The people also want the Prime Minister to sternly and unequivocally dissociate himself from the “mess”, whether on government efficiency, effectiveness, accountability, transparency or integrity questions. -The Rocket