Speech at at “Government Audit: Formality or Accountability?” Forum(e/c)

Opening Speech by Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng at “Government Audit: Formality or Accountability?” Forum on 23rd January 2015 (8.00 pm)

Good Evening and Salam Sejahtera,

I am pleased to be here this evening to officiate this forum jointly organised by the Penang Institute and the Centre to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4) entitled, “Government Audit: Formality or Accountability?”

Although this is the Penang Institute’s maiden event on the annual Auditor-General’s Report, it is a wholly familiar issue with the Malaysian public. The Penang state government firmly believes that the public deserves a clean, effective and transparent governance, this event is a great opportunity to shed some light onto the findings of the latest Auditor-General’s Report 2013.

Penang’s Stellar Report Card

Ladies and Gentleman,

The Penang state government with the CAT principles of Competency, Accountability and Transparency at our core, fully supports the national audit process. We believe that checks and balances are vital in the promotion of good governance and we commend the National Audit Department and Auditor-General’s commitment in carrying out this sacrosanct duty professionally. However the National Audit Department should not be reactive in detecting weaknesses that causes wastage, inefficiency or malpractices and even corruption. It should be pro-active by conducting audits on the first sign of trouble in government agencies before losses are suffered.

We are also proud of the Penang Pakatan Rakyat state government’s record with regards to the Auditor-General’s Report since forming government in 2008. In stark contrast to the usually abysmal findings in the audit of federal ministries and other states, Penang has maintained a stellar record. Commendations have been accorded to the state government for its clean, efficient and transparent governance – and not only by the Auditor-General’s Report but also by international watchdogs such as Transparency International. We are proud to be lauded as amongst the best managed and most efficient state administrators in Malaysia yearly since 2008.

In the latest 2013 report, Penang saw its revenue collection rise by 27.4%, as compared to the federal government’s 2.6%. This growth in revenue collection (in percentage) is observed to be the highest in the nation. Even the Prime Minister’s home state of Pahang saw a decrease in revenue collection by 2.2%.

In 2013, Penang also managed to achieve a budget surplus of RM1.3 million despite tabling a deficit budget of RM262 million, continuing PR’s record of a budget surplus, every year since we took over in 2008. From 2008 -2013, budget surpluses amounts to RM453 million, with the largest surplus in Penang’s history of RM138.31 million recorded for the year 2011 alone. In this period (2008-2013), Penang’s accumulated budget surpluses amounting to RM453 million is comparable to a total surplus of RM373.6 million recorded over the years until year end 2007.

Every year Penang’s finances grows stronger. In 2013, our Consolidated Fund reached RM1.29 billion, after an increase of RM99.85 million or 8.4%. This is an increase of more than RM 445 million or more than 53% since RM 847 million in 2007.

As far as our state departments and agencies are concerned, 8 or 53.3% were rated as excellent while the other 7 or 46.7% were rated as good. In other words, not a single department or agency reviewed was rated as anything less than good. The State Treasury Department and the Penang Development Corporation was rated Excellent for six years straight from 2008 to 2013.

It is also interesting to note that while the AG report 2013 mentioned that, as of 31 December 2013, only 58.3% of an approved allocation of RM363.39 million was spent, Penang has managed to complete 98.4% from a total of 3,516 planned projects. This indicates that the state government has actually spent less but achieved a lot more. This translates as financial prudence complemented by effective delivery and a reliance of the open competitive tender system that promotes transparency and competence.

The Federal Government: Business as Usual?

Ladies and Gentleman,

In contrast, the AG Report 2013 has pinpointed multiple failings in the federal government’s financial management, especially in the area of implementation. According to Auditor-General Tan Sri Ambrin Buang, in terms of implementation, 91.1% of the programmes, activities and projects encountered issues of inefficiency, non-compliance of regulations such as non-compliance of specification, work that was not of quality, unreasonable delays, poor acquisition, management of contract and maintenance of government assets.

Furthermore, the financial performance of federal departments was rated by the AG report 2013 as “not encouraging”. There is actually a decline in performance in 2013 as only 21 out of 45 Departments (46.7%) were rated as excellent as compared to 53.9% in 2012 and 50% of the departments audited in 2011.

Unlike the Penang state government that opted for an open competitive tender system, the AG Report 2013 revealed that some federal government projects were still dispensed via “direct negotiations”, which is often associated with cronyism and wastage of public funds. For example, the RM343.55 million Paya Peda Dam Development Project in Besut, Terengganu, a project by Ministry of Agriculture. Not only was it awarded through direct negotiations, but as of July 2013, it was found to be 18.49% behind schedule. Problems of non-compliance, substandard contractors and improper payments have emerged.

There is also the case of scandal-ridden entities with dubious and alleged massive liabilities that were overlooked by the AG report. An obvious example is the strategic development fund 1MDB that is at present wholly owned by the government, according to its website. Raking up to RM42 billion in debt, together with its failure to repay a RM2 billion loan that was initially due last December, it is perplexing to see that the Auditor General is still refusing to open the books of 1MDB. This is one area that the AG can remedy and save the nation from suffering horrendous losses. In other words preventing another scandal that is three times the Port Klang FTZ scandal (RM 13 billion)

AG Report: Formality or Accountability?

Ladies and gentleman,

The question all Malaysians are asking is: with leakages after leakages and scandals after scandals that have been revealed by the AG Reports, is the audit process itself effective to curb weak and often disingenuous fiscal management of the government, or is it a mere formality? This forum must attempt to address that, especially with the presence of our honoured guests from the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) and the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC).

The fact is that there is a lack of political will from the federal government to plug these leakages of public funds or to recoup the losses. Structural weaknesses in fiscal and project management have not been corrected and conducts bordering on abuse of power and corruption are left unaddressed. The BN Federal government is not hungry to expose corruption but appears to be hungry for more corruption. We hope to see a white knight in the AG to slay the “vampire” of corruption before these vampires suck the nation’s finances dry. As for MACC, many are still wondering when is MACC going to step up and be like Hong Kong’s ICAC instead of being a mere shadow of its self. Not just the excesses exposed in the AG’s Reports, but the MACC has failed to answer serious issues of public accountability on scandals ranging from the extraordinary wealth of former Sarawak Chief Minister’s family, the 1MDB and PKFZ saga or the RM 1.4 trillion of illicit funds flowing out of our country from 2003-2013. This sum, RM 1.4 trillion has cost each Malaysian citizen RM 50,000. Are we going to lose another RM 50,000 each before MACC acts?

Culprits are often able to escape with impunity. Out of the 175 civil servants implicated in financial wrongdoings by the AG report 2012, only one was sacked even though 85 were found guilty, according to the Chief Secretary of the Government. A number of them were referred for further disciplinary action but it would appear that such actions have not deterred further excesses and abuses from happening. What about KLIA2 which ballooned from an initial cost of RM 1.6 billion to RM 4 billion? Why not press for public declaration of assets of government leaders as practised by the Penang state government, which s a norm in many corrupt-free countries? The MACC is certainly in a better position than me to respond to such concerns.

Ladies and gentleman,

Good and effective management of public finance is vital, as a clean and transparent government will provide a fair and enabling environment for businesses to thrive, while safeguarding the interests and welfare of the rakyat. For instance, open competitive tenders allows government not only to save funds at the initial capital expenditure but also at the operating expenditure when carrying out regular maintenance. The initial capital expenditure selected by open tender at the best price and best quality would have a double bonus of reducing maintenance costs when it is done well at the beginning. Shoddy construction invariably leads to higher maintenance cost.
On the other hand, a government facing massive public funds leakages will instead enable crony capitalism, inefficient service delivery, reduced investment in public goods and widespread corruption. In such conditions, poverty and inequality will rise as those with political connections and vested interests are more likely to succeed. Businesses will be deprived of fair-play condition while funds earmarked for social services are siphoned for other purposes, either through legal or illegal means.

For example, the Penang State Government has demonstrated that prudent management of state coffers does not lead to deprivation of public goods and social welfare, but instead enables the funding of it, as can be seen by the state’s success in providing free Rapid Penang bus services in the city area and across the Penang Bridge as well as our golden welfare programmes in the form of cash aid for senior citizens, single mothers, housewives, the disabled, university students, trishaw pullers, fishermen and students. In addition to that, we have also instituted the Agenda Ekonomi Saksama (AES) scheme to ensure there are no households in Penang that earn less than RM790 a month by topping up the difference every month. To date, the state government has spent RM 287 million and is allocating another RM 117 million this year for cash and directly to the public or nearly 12% of our annual Budget.

All this has only been made possible due to the “anti-corruption dividends” that we earned by practising Competency, Accountability and Transparency. This is why the AG’s Report must not be treated as a formality, but instead be given due attention in order to improve governance for the rakyat.

Without further ado, I hereby formally announce the opening of this forum. Thank you very much and have a pleasant evening.

LIM GUAN ENG

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槟城州首席部长林冠英于2015年1月23日在“政府稽查:流于形式,还是问责?”论坛的开幕词

大家晚安,很高兴出席今晚槟城研究机构(Penang Institute)及反贪反朋党中心(C4)主办的“政府稽查:流于形式,还是问责?”

虽然这项槟城研究机构主办的探讨活动,几乎全马民众所熟悉的年度稽查报告。槟城州政府仍坚信公众应该拥有一个廉洁、有效及透明的施政,这项活动是借此探讨最新2013年的稽查报告。

槟城亮眼的成绩单

槟城州政府以能干、公信、透明的施政原则作为核心思想,全力支持国家稽查程序。我们相信有制衡才能真正提倡良好施政,我们认同国家稽查署及总稽查司履行他们的专业职责。然而,国家稽查署不听该被动的侦测纰漏、没效率、犯错甚至贪污的行为而以,反而是应该主动在政府机构还没出麻烦前,主动出击稽查,防止损失。

我们很自豪槟城民联州政府自2008年来在稽查报告的成绩。相比于其他联邦部门及其他州在稽查上层层叠叠的问题,槟州维持这亮眼的成绩。州政府廉洁、有效及透明施政的赞同不止来自于国家稽查报告,更来自国际透明组织。我们很自豪地说,我们是管理最杰出的州属,也是马来西亚自2008年以来最有效率的州政府。

2013年的稽查报告,槟城税收增加了27.4%,相比联邦政府只有2.6%。这项税收的增加幅度,据观察是全国最高。首相的家乡州属彭亨税收就减少了2.2%。

2013年,即使原本预算将会有2亿6200万令吉的赤字,不过最终槟城也获得了130万令吉的实际盈余,自2008年执政至今,持续财政盈余。自2008至2013年,槟城的财政盈余共4亿5300万令吉,单在2011年更创下槟城历史纪录,达到1亿3831万令吉的盈余。这短短6年的4亿5300万财政盈余,一举超越了自有记录以来至2007年终的3亿7360万令吉。

槟城州财政逐年坚强增长,在2013年,我们的州统一储备基金在增加9985万令吉或8.4%之后,总数已经高达到12亿9000万令吉。这是从2007年原本的8亿4700万令吉,增加了4亿4500万令吉,储备增长超过了53%。

我们州政府部门及机构在接受评分的时候,目前不是获得8分或53.3%的杰出分数,就是获得7分或46.7%的良好分数。换句话说,州政府各部门及机构所获得的评分全都至少在良好以上。槟州财政司及槟州发展机构,更是自2008年至2013年连续6年获得杰出的评分。

在2013年的稽查报告,我们更有趣的发现,截至2013年12月31日,槟州已经批准的3亿6339万令吉拨款总数,只用了58.3%,但槟城却能在总数3516项的全部计划中,完成98.4%的计划。这证明州政府能以更低的开销,却完成更多的计划。 这在财政术语来说就是有执行效率及成功实施透明与竞争的公开招标所带来的成果。

联邦政府: 还是犯同样的错?

2013年总稽查报告已经列出联邦政府在理财方面的多重失败,特别是在执行方面。总稽查司丹斯里安比林说,在执行方面,91.1%的计划、活动及项目面对没有效率的问题、违反条例如不符合规格、低质量、无理延工、不当的采购、合约管理及政府资产维修。

再说,2013年总稽查报告对联邦政府机构的财务表现评级为“不理想”。2013年的表现其实退步,45个政府部门中只有21个部门(46.7%)被评为“优秀”,2012年有53.9%而2011年有50%。

不像槟州政府推行采购公开招标那样,2013年总稽查报告揭露一些联邦政府还是通过“直接洽谈”发放出去,这些项目通常与朋党、浪费公帑有关。例如,农业部在登嘉楼价值3亿4355万令吉的Paya Peda 水坝发展计划。不只是它通过“直接洽谈”颁布,到了2013年7月,它还处于18.49% 延期。这项工程也出现不符合规格、二级承包商及不当付款的问题。

总稽查报告也忽略了一些饱受丑闻缠身的机构,最明显的例子是由政府拥有一马发展机构(其网站如此说明)。这个机构负债高达420亿令吉,它也无法偿还一笔去年12月到期的20亿令吉的债务,我们感到困惑因为总稽查还不愿意检查1MDB的账目。这是总稽查可以矫正及阻止人民继续承受可怕损失的机会。换句话说,这是阻止另一宗损失高出巴生自贸区三倍(130亿令吉)的丑闻。

总稽查报告:流于形式,还是问责?

所有马来西亚人都在问:随着总稽查报告一再揭发财务疏漏及丑闻,稽查过程本身究竟是不是能够有效地控制政府在理财方面的不正当性及弱点?或者它只是一个形式?这个论坛必须讨论这些问题,特别是我们的公共账目委员会及马来西亚反贪委会的嘉宾。

事实是,联邦政府没有政治意愿来解决这些公帑浪费或损失的问题。当局还没有纠正财政及项目管理的结构性弱点,也没有解决滥权贪污的问题。国阵联邦政府不急于揭露贪污,反而好像是要允许更多贪污。我们希望总稽查司出现“白武士” 一举歼灭这些贪污的“吸血鬼”,别让他们散尽国家的财富。至于反贪污委员会,很多人还觉得奇怪,反贪污委员会几时才要像香港的廉正公署行动起来,又或者继续成为自己的影子。总稽查报告不只揭露过度挥霍,反贪委会也没有交代涉及严重公共问责的丑闻,从砂州首长家族的超级财富、到1MDB、巴生自贸区丑闻或2003-2013年期间流失到国外的非法资金1.4兆令吉。上述外流的非法资金平均起来等于第一名国人损失了5万令吉,难道我们还要另外损失5万令吉,反贪委会才肯行动起来?

犯罪者往往不受惩罚。2012年总稽查报告中175名公务员被指理财不当,政府总秘书指出,虽然85人被判有罪,但是只有1人被解雇。很多人受到纪律处分,但是他们的行动并没有阻止浪费及滥权的风气。KLIA2的工程成本从最初的16亿令吉增加到40亿令吉呢?为什么不施压政府领袖像槟州政府那样公布财产?这是许多反贪成功国家的政策。反贪委会应该比我更有资格回答这些问题。

良好及有效的公共财政管理是极为重要的,因为一个廉洁及透明的政府将能提供公平平等的环境让各行各业发展,更重要的是,人民的利益将获得保障。举例来说,公开招标不止可以使政府在各方面节省成本,又能获得更好品质的产出,效益得以彰显。

另一方面,当政府面对大量公共资金外漏之际,将会促成资本主义朋党的形成、无效率服务、降低公共财的投资以及贪污腐败蔓延的情形。如此一来,有政治关系的利益人士永远比別人更容易成功,而贫穷及不平等则将日益严重。

槟州政府在把守州财库之上一向谨慎以待,特別是公共财及社会福利上,更是尤其关注。州政府提供免费巴士服务穿行於市区及来往槟威两地,同时,也颁发各类援助金予乐龄人士、单亲妈妈、家庭主妇、身心障碍者、大学新生、三轮车夫、渔夫以及学生。我们设置了公平经济议程,期许透过制度化的方式,确保槟州的每户家庭月入不少过790令吉。迄今,槟州政府已支出2亿8700万令吉作为人民福利之用。今年,我们更另外拨出1亿1700万令吉的现款予民众,这笔款项是年度预算的12%。

凡此种种,全拜实施能干、公信、透明的“反贪污腐败”政策所得来的红利,因此,我们视稽查报告为改善治理的一帖良方,对人民的福祉而言,绝对是美事一桩。
林冠英

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