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RM756 million Metramac concession scandal –Finance and Works Ministries must speak up to  give proper  accounting of their role



Media Statement (3)
by Lim Kit Siang  

Parliament, Thursday): Former poster boy of corporate Malaysia Tan Sri Halim Saad issued a nine-page rebuttal to the Court of Appeal judgment by Justice  Datuk Gopal Sri Ram that he and Anuar Othman  “had flirted with an aggravated form of criminal breach of trust, an offence carrying a maximum 20-year jail term with whipping and fine upon conviction”, denying  any misappropriation of RM32.5 million from the Cheras toll concessionaire, Metramac Corporation Sdn. Bhd.

Former Finance Minister Tun Daim Zainuddin has said that he would make a “comprehensive press statement” on his return to the country next week, stating through his lawyer that “certain findings” that  have been made against him by the Sri Ram judgment were “erroneous”.

The most “comprehensive” explanation Daim must give is with regard to the most damning finding of Sri Ram about  his “patronage” of Halim and Anuar as Finance Minister as described in the following paragraph in the judgment:

“15. Not long after the take over, a strange thing happened. Where doors were once closed to the defendant before its take over, as if by the utterance of a magic spell all bureaucratic doors were opened to the defendant after its take over by Metro Juara. And, as if by the rub of a magic lamp, the Federal Government and DBKL who hitherto claimed to be impoverished suddenly found themselves flush with funds. They were now in a financial position compensate the defendant. The figures are staggering. In one way or another the defendant was to receiving total sum of M$756 million.”

Daim must also give “comprehensive” explanation as to whether there was  conflict-of-interest in his patronage of Halim and Anuar, who were UMNO trustees in their capacity as  director-shareholder of United Engineers Malaysia (UEM), with Daim at that time the UMNO Treasurer.

With Halim Saad having his say, and Daim about to give his “comprehensive” say, the time has come for the Ministry of Finance and Works to have their say to give full public accountability of their role in the RM756 million Metramac concession scandal.

The Metramac concession scandal is not a matter concerning private individuals but a public and government issue affecting the integrity of government decision-making process, particularly with regard to the award of contracts and mega-privatisation concessions.

Many aspects of the Metramac concession scandal boggle the imagination, whether about the original concession award to the successful bidder who did not have the means to carry out the project, or how after the restructuring of the concessionaire company to bring in the needed RM65 million, it could submit a claim for M$764.2 million for any cancellation of the concession.

The Metramac scandal is another proof why the lack of transparency of privatization contracts and concessions works against the national  interest, as they allow a multitude of sins to be hidden away from public scrutiny.

If transparency is one of the hallmarks of the  privatization process, with all privatization contracts and concessions accessible to public scrutiny after they had been signed and sealed, it would have acted as a powerful deterrent against gross abuses of power and serious conflict-of-interest situations.

The Metramac scandal should have featured high on the agenda of yesterday’s Cabinet meeting, but this does not seemed to be the case – with precious time taken up by issues which should have not reached Cabinet level, like the issue of the use of handphone by schoolchildren in schools and the disbanding of the Putrajaya Jawi “snoop squad”.

I call on the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to draw the proper lesson from the Metramac scandal by directing that all past, present and future privatization contracts and concessions should pass the transparency test, including making them accessible to MPs and the interested public.                 


*  Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman

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