Scandal of Sarawak’s Budget Black Hole
19 Aug 2010
Scandal highlighted by DAP
Taib Mahmud, the Chief Minister of Sarawak, has failed to account for a staggering RM 4.8 billion of government expenditure over the past 3 years alone, according to explosive figures released by the opposition DAP party. This represents more than half the Development Budget, which in turn represents nearly three quarters of the total expenditure for the State!
Put another way, in 2009 RM 1.825 billion of the State’s total expenditure was allocated to persons unknown, compared to the government’s estimated revenue for that year of RM 3.726 billion. That is about half of all your cash!
(see http://www.dapsarawak.com/news/DAP_Sarawak_2010_Alternative_Budget_Eng.pdf esp page 6/7)
The secret projects soaking up Sarawak’s cash
The DAP, who recently triumphed over BN at the Sibu by-election, have produced a closely argued Alternative Budget for 2010, in which they demand a return to proper accounting methods, so that taxpayers can know exactly how their money has been spent. This is their right and it is also Malaysian law, in line with the rest of the civilised world.
The DAP figures show that Taib has not only reserved 80% of the State’s entire Development Budget to the three Ministries controlled directly by himself, but that shockingly most of that money has been spent on secret projects about which he has provided zero information.
Under the circumstances the people of Sarawak are entitled to assume that the money has been stolen. As the DAP points out:
“This [state of affairs] defies the basic principle of political accountability in a democratic system and is susceptible to great abuses”.
So let us all guess what those abuses might be and where the money might have gone. Some on more Rolls Royces for the Chief Minister? Some on more foreign properties for his family? Some on bailing out projects by Taib-owned companies?
The Chief Minister appears to think he can get away with not telling people where he has decided to spend this money, but we can be comfortably certain that none of these secret projects involve benefitting any of the impoverished people whose lands he has taken for palm plantations now owned by his family and friends.
The “Government Contribution Towards Approved Agencies Trust Fund”
So what is going on and how has all this money disappeared?
The DAP budget documents provides a detailed analysis. Firstly, it outlines the extraordinary level of personal control that Taib has assumed over Sarawak’s expenditure. The septuagenarian personally manages the three main spending departments in the State. This means that almost every spending decision has to go through him and that no other Minister can do anything without getting his permission.
In particular his three ministries (the Finance Ministry, Planning and Resources Ministry and Chief Ministry) together control 80% of the Development Budget, which alone accounts for around three quarters of all money spent, although it is argued many of the projects would more sensibly belong under different departments.
Secondly, the document explains the secretive system that the Chief Minister has developed for allocating more half this huge sum of money. Over the past several years he has employed a highly mysterious expenditure category termed the ‘Government Contribution towards Approved Agencies Trust Fund’ into which this money is channelled. There is no specification as to who these ‘Approved Agencies’ are or which Trust Fund is being referred to and the Government has consistently refused requests for information on the subject! It could be going to his aunty, or his sister, or cousins, or kids, or secret mistress…… how is anyone supposed to know and what right has he to keep it secret?
Thus, in 2009 RM 1.825 billion (59.3% of the total RM 2.430 billion) is unaccounted for in the Development Budget, according to the DAP calculations. In 2008 it was RM1.719 billion (60% of the total RM2.865 billion) and in 2007 it was RM1.257 billionn (54.8% of the total RM2.294 billion). The DAP raise the valid question as to what is the point of carefully auditing 40% of the budget if the remaining 60% is kept secret?
The truth must be told
We can only assume that the ‘Approved Agencies’ must be outfits the Chief Minister would rather we did not know about. Certainly, if these ‘Approved Agencies’ were doing any good to the people he is supposed to serve, then he would be broadcasting the fact next to a picture of himself in every page of the Borneo Post!
However, he is not and therefore we can safely conclude that they are just doing good for the Taib family and their business cronies, like so many of his other projects.