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PKFZ: How Many Task Forces Do We Need?

Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak’s “performance now” government is fast becoming a farce, as yet another special task force has been set up to “investigate” the RM12.5 billion Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) super-scandal.

Previously, Port Klang Authority (PKA) had set up a Committee of Corporate Governance led by Datuk Paul Low Seng Kuan (president of Transparency International Malaysia) and Encik Nik Mohd. Hasyudeen Yusoff (president of the Malaysian Institute of Accountants). In addition to that, an Executive Committee was formed to plan and monitor the business development of the trade zone.

The PKA task force and committees were set up in response to the Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PwC) task force report which had revealed some discrepancies, conflict of interest, abuse of power, the absence of governance as well as major incompetence in the management of the PKFZ project.

Millions have already been spent by the Ministry of Transport to hire the best in the industry to come up with the various detailed reports including Mr. Vinayak Pradhan from Skrine & Co., a former Commissioner with the United Nations (UN) Compensation Commission and member of the Permanent Court of Arbitration. Are the reports by Skrine & Co. and PwC so incomplete and inconclusive that the government needs another task force to investigate further?

One would have imagined that a new super task force could only do the PKFZ issue justice if it was made up of a team of completely independent outsiders with integrity and good standing.

Mohd Sidek right person for the job?

Unfortunately, the new task force will comprise the Chief Secretary of Government, the Treasury Secretary-General, the Attorney-General and officials from the Transport and Finance Ministries and are to look into: (i) misappropriation, abuse of power and illegal acts; (ii) good governance; and (iii) the financial feasibility of the PKFZ project respectively.

All the abovementioned were directly or indirectly involved with the various decisions made with regard to the RM12.5bil PKFZ project, so how then can we expect this new “high-powered” super task force to act impartially and professionally when they themselves have vested interests?

DAP Parliamentary Leader Lim Kit Siang could not contain his disdain in his statement on 15 September, in which he questioned the proposed appointment of Tan Sri Mohd Sidek Hassan. Saying that the top official had failed to carry out an inquiry into how the four Letters of Support could have been issued unlawfully and take the necessary disciplinary actions against the culprit.

“Can Mohd Sidek succeed where he had failed in the past two years?” he asked.

Super task force to “nullify” previous investigative reports?

No one really knows if the other task forces and the two committees set up by the Ministry of Transport (MOT) in June 2009 has been disbanded with immediate effect, commented MP for Petaling Jaya Utara, Tony Pua.

“The question is, did the Prime Minister set up the new super task force to prevent the Ministry of Transport task force from commencing legal suits against Datuk Seri Tiong King Sing, Kuala Dimensi Sdn Bhd and other relevant parties?”

In fact, based on the reports prepared by the task force led Mr. Vinayak from Skrine & Co., Datuk Lee Hwa Beng, on behalf of the PKA board of directors, had said that “the PKA legal team has been asked to commence legal action against KDSB and relevant parties” and to “use every legal means possible to challenge the disputed claims amounting to about RM1.4 billion” in his press statements in August.

In a not-so-subtle move, Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat made the “face-saving” statement that he considers the new task force as “the last lap in what has been a tedious and complicated marathon race”. This could only mean one thing: the previous “lap” by the MOT “special” task force has been stopped in its tracks.

AG should prosecute Ministers

The DAP also took to task the Attorney-General, Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail, for not prosecuting two former Ministers in the PKFZ super scandal. The revelation was made public after a leaked Cabinet paper inferring that the government knew of the cost overruns and did nothing about it first appeared in blogger Raja Petra Kamarudin’s Malaysia-Today website.

At the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) hearing in August, Gani had made it clear that the four Letters of Support issued by previous Transport Ministers Tun Dr. Ling Liong Sik and Tan Sri Chan Kong Choy from 2003 to 2006 for the RM4 billion bonds issue by KDSB were in fact Letters of Guarantee and had been unlawfully issued.

“Why didn’t Attorney-General prosecute previous Transport Ministers Ling Liong Sik and Chan Kong Choy for unlawfully issuing four Letters of Support, landing the taxpayers with the RM12.5 billion PKFZ scandal?” asked Lim Kit Siang, DAP Parliamentary Leader.

Instead of going after all those who were embroiled in the issue at one point or another – namely three Prime Ministers, three Finance Ministers and four PKA chairpersons – who have burdened Malaysian taxpayers with the mother of all scandals, the Attorney-General and government leaders publicly denounced the leakage of the 18-page document and called for action to be taken against Raja Petra under the Official Secrets Act (OSA).

“The question Najib has failed to answer is why the Cabinet papers on the RM12.5 billion PKFZ scandal should continue to be kept as secret documents instead of being declassified, unless the Barisan Nasional has skeletons in the cupboard which must be kept hidden from public knowledge and scrutiny,” Lim said.

Where is MACC?

A number of reports of financial impropriety has been lodged with the then Anti-Corruption Agency (with the first report lodged in December 2004) and more recently with the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC). If the Najib administration is serious about wanting to uphold integrity and good governance, why has the MACC not sped up investigations into the super scandal?

The establishment of this new taskforce reeks of a major cover-up. Not only that, the committee will take another six months to come up with its own report into the scandal.

It’s time to stop the nonsense.

RCI needed now!

Cabinet should establish a Royal Commission of Inquiry to conduct a no-holds-barred investigation into the mother of all scandals to unearth all the abuses of power and criminal breach of trust that took place at the Ministerial and Cabinet levels, right from the very start of this sorry saga a decade ago when the PKFZ was first mooted.