Once again, Sarawak politicians have turned to the Borneo Post to deny information brought by Sarawak Report.
April 7th, Sibu GPS/PBB Adun, Dr Annuar Rapaee issued a statement to deny that he controls how Covid 19 disaster funds are spent on food provisions distributed to his area, including in the constituencies of opposition YBs who have been removed from the decision-making:
Referring to an article on Sarawak Report… which was published on April 5, he [Dr Annuar] also denied that provisions for the people in need in Sibu’s five state seats were placed under him.
“The accusation that l regulate all these provisions is not true at all. All money is channelled directly to the Sibu Divisional Resident Office which operates the Sibu Division Disaster Management Committee (SDDMC) headed by Sibu Divisional Resident, Charles Siaw…. l only monitor to ensure that all the assistance reaches the recipients,” he told a press conference here. [Borneo Post]
Each of the 82 state constituencies has been allocated RMRM200,000 to be spent on food for constituents. Sarawak Report had reported complaints by opposition Aduns that originally they had been told they would be given control over the allocation for their seat, as Dr Annuar acknowledges he has been.
However, opposition Aduns say they subsequently learned that in the case of parties not linked to the ruling coalition this allocation would be managed by a GPS representative in the area instead. In Sibu (where there are five seats of which four are with the opposition) the money for all the seats would be supervised and controlled by Dr Annuar.
Despite Dr Annuar’s denials that this is true, Sarawak Report has obtained a copy of a ‘confidential’ memo from the Ministry of Welfare, sent and signed by the permanent secretary of the state Ministry of Welfare that shows it to be the case. Specifically, an annex to the memo places the budget for all five Sibu seats under Annuar’s name, giving him management of a MILLION ringgit of funds on behalf of all the seats:
Originally, welfare department officials had called all 82 Aduns and told them the money for their area would be sent to their own Service Centres and they were invited to provide the bank details for these accounts, which they manage.
However, this memo to all Division Residents and Chairman dated April 3rd invites readers to note a change from its instructions two days previously. Instead, all allocations would be forwarded to the Division Disaster Committee (JBB) for the area, which as stated by Dr Annuar is a body headed in Sibu by the Divisional Resident.
On the other hand, the memo makes clear that it is the Assembly Service Centres that will be given the responsibility for commissioning and distributing foodstuffs. These are managed by Aduns and the memos says incurred receipts will be refunded by the JBB. There is no reference to permission or oversight of those purchases and distributions:
“The Assembly Service Center will manage all purchases of food items and confirm the purchase bills, submitting an application to JBB for payment. If the Service Center has made a payment for the purchase of food supplies, a refund may be made to JBB with the confirmed purchase bill.” [Translated memo from Welfare Dept, April 3rd]
Yet it is also made abundantly plain that only service centres of state government friendly Aduns are included. An annex to the memo lays out in the clearest terms which named Aduns will have the responsibility for “managing” which parts of the distributions in each region of Sarawak. In the case of every opposition seat the RM200,000 allocation is placed under a neighbouring Adun from GPS, instead of the elected representative for that seat.
By contrast, in each GPS seat the elected Adun himself is named as the responsible party for the RM200,000 allocation. For example, in Kuching, where there are 16 seats altogether, the four opposition areas are placed under the supervision of the GPS YB Dr Sim (as Sarawak Report originally reported) who is therefore also made responsible for a MILLION ringgit.
All the other government leaning YBs in Kuching are named as the supervisors of their own RM200,000 budgets:
Likewise in Limbang, YB Awang Tengah gets a double RM400,000 allocation, accounting for the area of Baru Bian who is not named as a manager for his own area’s fund as the former leader of PKR and current independent MP, a pattern repeated with opposition Aduns across the state.
Interestingly, the recent PKR defector to the PN government, Ali Biju, is also treated as an opposition member in the state, despite being a minister in a GPS component government. His allocation for Krian in Betong is also put under the control of a GPS YB:
See the full document below:
TO: All Division Residents and Chairman
Division Disaster Committee
FROM: The Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Welfare:
Community, Women, Family and Child Development
As the Secretariat of the Food Supply Chain Subcommittee
April 3, 2020
RESPONSIBILITIES FOR FOOD SUPPLIES
In all respects the above matters are referred to. Our letter of reference KWKPK **** dated April 1, 2020 is relevant.
2. Please note that a recent change has been made on April 2, 2020 where all allocations will be forwarded to the Division Disaster Committee (JBB) and all payments will be made by the JBB. The JBB is also requested, if necessary, to provide immediate funding to the District Level Disaster Committee. For example: Old District in Limbang Division; Marudi District in Miri Division.
3. The Assembly Service Center will manage all purchases of food items and confirm the purchase bills, submitting an application to JBB for payment. If the Service Center has made a payment for the purchase of food supplies, a refund may be made to JBB with the confirmed purchase bill.
4. As previously stated, the Subcommittee on Food Supply Chairs has set for each constituency of the State Assembly an allocation of RM200,000.00 and this provision is for food purchases only, which will be provided to target groups in their constituencies.
5. All expenses incurred in the delivery and distribution of food within the constituency area shall be funded by the Honorable Member using their respective Minor Rural Project (MRP). For the transport of food supplies outside the constituency, which involves transporters from other government agencies such as the Armed Forces
Malaysia (ATM), Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF), BOMBA and the private sector, the Division / District Disaster Committee shall submit a detailed budget to the Secretariat, Sub-Committee of the Food Supply Chain, for consideration of payment.
6. The accompanying appendix provides the provisions for each JBB, and a list of the names of the Honorable Members of the Legislative Assembly including the constituencies and provisions eligible for each constituency in each constituency.
7. The attention and cooperation of all JBB Residents / Chairmen in this regard is appreciated and appreciated.
“ONE HAPPY BUSINESS” “AN HONOR TO SERVE”
1.Secretary to YB Deputy Chief Minister and Minister of Urban Development and Secondary Resources and Minister of International Trade and Industry, Industrial Terminal and Entrepreneur Development
2. The Minister of Welfare, Community Welfare, Women, Family and Child Development
3. YB Secretary of State
4. Honorable Members of the State Assembly
Now that it is established that the state government has indeed secretively handed the management of supplies over to local politicians and furthermore given control of opposition budgets to their own party representatives and then and mislead the media, what can be the motive?
It is hard to think of an honest reason for handing money out in such a way, which presumably explains the attempt by Dr Annuar to deny through his careful wording that this is what has happened.
YBs like himself may not in the end have been made the direct recipients of the cash, however the memo makes clear they are calling the shots on how food distribution is managed and are responsible for placing the receipts for refunds for purchases and contracts they have made.
Is that an appropriate for politicians who are supposed to oversee the management of the state budget by officials, not put their hands on the cash themselves?
Likewise, are government Aduns considered trustworthy in this respect whilst opposition Aduns are not? Already, a chorus of concerns have been raised by opposition politicians with constituents in poor urban areas or remote rural spots.
DAP representative Kelvin Yii has decried what he says is inconsistency in the food parcels being handed out with some families receiving more than others. In many opposition areas food has yet to be delivered. It has led to concerns that desperate and now starving families, including even babies, in opposition areas are receiving less food and less attention than ‘faithful voters’ whom the government Aduns seek to reward:
“In a pandemic and an outbreak of a deadly disease, it is sad that certain quarters are playing politics with the delivery of welfare aid to the poor and hungry. At the end of the day, the victims are the people
In my own constituency, many are calling and said they have not received anything even after more than 20+ days of MCO. Some called me up begging, saying their baby has no milk to drink due to loss if their income.
That is why i regret the slow response from the Welfare Department. This is the time that elected representatives should be allowed to service our constituency better to help out with the implementation of this welfare aid distribution
Such a crisis of hardship is doubly unforgivable when millions have been handed out by a state government flush with even more billions of ‘election war chest’ money waiting to be handed out.
Further concerns have arisen about the small amounts of food that intermediaries and contractors have been providing to these stranded families. People have been led to expect reasonable amounts would be delivered worth around RM100 per family. However, much of what has arrived has been far less.
It is fair enough to discover that Aduns may not be the most expert deliverers of such supplies, since it is not their role. However, the opposition say information is rife that cronies and favour seekers are lining up to get the contracts from these YBs to deliver supplies that ought to be handled without commission by salaried government staff.
In Bukit Goram, each family received 20kg rice, biscuit, 2kg sugar, flour and 1 bag of Ajinomoto. In Pakan, each received 10kg rice, biscuit, 2kg cooking oil, 2kg sugar and 20 tea bags. In Meluan, 20kg rice only
That is why I have advocated that the distribution of RM200,000 food aid for each DUN constituency, should have been handled by the district office and not by GPS politicians.
I heard many contractors and suppliers are lobbying for this job with the Aduns and the trouble with it is if RM100 is allocated to one family, the contractor gets a big chunk of it”
explained one concerned DAP politician, detailing the logical consequences of a system that is blatantly denied to filter political patronage through government representatives at the expense of efficient management of desperately needed disaster relief.
In other areas there is concern the situation is being abused in other ways. One PKR spokesman, who wishes to remain unnamed, informed Sarawak Report that in the remote area of Ulu Entabai the GPS Adun, Roland Duat Ak Jubin, has travelled round himself in spite of the Movement Control Orders to supervise the handing out of food:
If you don’t show him your IC you don’t get the 20kg rice for each family. People are hesitant to present ICs because their ICs have been misused in the past for other purposes
There would appear to be a strong reason for an YB wishing to check identity cards at this time of impending elections, especially at a time when all residents are present in their homes.
One of these would be to check which names on the register are actually not represented by voters still living in the constituency. This is useful information for electioneering but also open to abuse, and at least one YB seems to be seeking such private information in return for disaster relief.
At a lower level, other longhouse residents have reported that headmen seeking to curry favour with their Aduns have even on occasion refused to hand on food to members in their community who vote for the opposition. PKR representatives told Sarawak Report this seems rare but has been reported.
Faced with these shocking attempts to take advantage of the situation the new PKR leader in Sarawak, Larry Sng has issued his own statement today demanding that the state government and its political representatives focus on the next upcoming wave in this crisis and provide more aid, but to be managed through the District Office not political parties. It is called basic good governance and so far the ruling regime in Sarawak has once again failed to provide it.
Shortly after this article was published Dr Annuar Rapaee issued a statement publicly inviting the opposition Aduns to join him for a briefing on what he has now revealed to be his “coordinating role” on the distribution of disaster relief in their areas. This is a belated acknowledgement that he does hold a role in the distribution of food to their areas which they do not and SR awaits further information from these meetings.
Meanwhile, the GPS Adun for Nangka maintains that despite the official memorandum (above) indicating that the Service Centres of Aduns will be the ones to purchase and coordinate distribution of foodstuffs (up to the value of RM1 million in Dr Annuar’s case) and to place in receipts for repayment from the funds held by the disaster committee – in his case all the purchasing has been done directly by the Sibu committee managed by the Resident.
Read the statement released for the media on Saturday April 11th following publication of this article:
Nangka assemblyman Dr Annuar Rapaee is inviting opposition’s people elected representatives to Sibu Resident Office tomorrow at 10am to clear the confusions surrounding the funds for the Covid-19 effort under the Movement Control Order (MCO), once and for all.
Assistant Minister of Education, Science and Technological Research, said Sibu Resident Charles Siaw has consented for the bank statement of account to be shown to them as evidence that that all funds for the Covid-19 effort in Sibu under the MCO did not go through him.
He also clarified that all purchases for the provisions for those beset by food shortages were made by the Resident Office.
“I have posted the invitation at 2.43pm today in the WhatsApp group created by Bukit Assek assemblyman Irene Chang, where Pelawan assemblyman David Wong, Sibu MP Oscar Ling, Lanang MP Alice Lau, Julau MP Larry Sng and Selangau MP Baru Bian are all in the group.
“I am inviting a volunteer among anyone of you to check where is RM 1 million channelled to. Yes, initially state government wanted to channel to the YBs (elected representatives) but later, decided against it. Instead, the funds go to the Division Disaster Management Committee headed by respective Resident.
“In fact, I have spoken to Padungan assemblyman (Wong King Wei) and he confirmed that initially, the fund of RM200,000 was supposed to be channelled to respective YB’s account, including those from the opposition camp but later the state government came up with a new mechanism. So, the confusion is that all the funds for the five state constituencies in Sibu totalling RM1 million are placed under me. This is totally untrue and what is why I am inviting them to come voluntarily to see for themselves all the relevant document such as the bank statement, purchase orders and so on, to clear the air,” Dr Annuar said.
He explained that as the coordinator for the committee, his role was to ensure that all work on the ground went smoothly.
“I hope after seeing the documentation for themselves will clear this confusion once and for all and that this fund is not placed under me,” he said.
He said the confusion stemmed from an article on Sarawak Report (SR) entitled “MONSTROUS! -How Sarawak’s GPS Have Played Politics With Hunger” which was published on April 5 and other postings by bloggers.