Dismayed over the exorbitant engineering consultancy fees, 4 times higher !


GEORGE TOWN: Barisan Nasional leaders have criticised the Penang Government for allegedly over-paying, by four times, the detailed design fees of three road projects.

“Construction is not a new industry. Many people are puzzled by the exorbitant consultancy fees,” said Penang MCA secretary Tang Heap Seng in a press statement yesterday.

He said the Board of Engineers Malaysia (BEM) devised a standardised gazetted scale of fees for professional engineering consultancy in accordance with Section 4(1)(d) of the Registration of Engineers Act 1967 (Act 138), and it was highly irregular to deviate from it.

Yesterday, it was reported that Barisan’s strategic communication team sought the professional opinion of BEM on the costing of the three paired roads.

The board was said to have replied that the RM177mil in detailed design costs was four times higher than the maximum allowed under the gazetted scale of fees, which the board calculated to be RM41mil.

The three roads are from Teluk Bahang to Tanjung Bungah, Air Itam to Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu Expressway and Gurney Drive to the expressway. They are meant to be a traffic dispersal system for the proposed Penang Undersea Tunnel.

Penang MCA Youth chief Datuk Michael Lee Beng Seng also issued a statement, pointing out that the alleged overpaid amount of RM136mil was more than the reported RM100mil the state spent on flood mitigation in the last eight years.

“We are shocked that the Penang government has put the well-being and safety of the rakyat behind the interests of consultants and contractors.”

Gerakan vice-president Datuk Dr Dominic Lau highlighted that affordable housing, flash floods and landslides were issues that concerned Penangites.

On Tuesday, Barisan strategic communications director Datuk Seri Abdul Rahman Dahlan announced that he was giving the Penang Government a week to explain BEM’s findings, failing which the matter would be referred to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission.

When asked to comment, Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng replied: “Another day.” – The Star

 
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Ex-Johor exco man, son and consultant face 21 counts amounting to RM36m


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JOHOR BARU: Former state executive councillor Datuk Abd Latif Bandi, his eldest son and a property consultant have been charged with a total of 21 counts of money laundering amounting to RM35.78mil in connection with the massive Johor land scandal that broke out in March.
The former state Housing and Local Government Committee chairman was charged with 13 counts of money laundering amounting to RM17.59mil.

His son Ahmad Fauzan Hatim, 25, and Amir Shariffuddin Abd Raub, 44, were charged with four counts each involving RM735,000 and RM17.46mil respectively.

They are said to have committed the offences via cheque transactions at five major banks around Johor Baru between November 2013 and December 2016.

Abd Latif, 51, pleaded not guilty to seven counts under Section 4(1) (b) of the Anti-Money Laundering, Anti-Terrorism Financing and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities 2001 (AMLA) (Act 613).

If found guilty, he can be sentenced to 15 years in jail and fined five times the amount or RM5mil, whichever is higher.

He also claimed trial to six counts under Section 4(1)(a) of the same Act, which carries a jail term of up to five years and a maximum fine of RM5mil, if convicted.

Ahmad Fauzan and Amir Sharifuddin also pleaded not guilty to four counts each under the Section 4(1) (b) and Section 4(1)(a) of the same Act, respectively.

Sessions Court judge Mohd Fauzi Mohd Nasir set bail at RM500,000 for Abd Latif, RM200,000 for Ahmad Fauzan and RM400,000 for Amir Shariffuddin in one surety each, to run concurrently with previously charged offences.

He was referring to the 33 counts of graft that Abd Latif and Amir Shariffuddin had claimed trial to on April 19 for allegedly converting bumiputra lots to non-bumiputra lots involving a total of RM30.3mil in Kota Masai, Tebrau, Kulai, Kempas, Nusajaya and Johor Baru.

The judge also fixed July 5 for next mention.

Abd Latif and Ahmad Fauzan were represented by a five-man legal team led by Datuk Hasnal Rezua Merican while lawyer Azrul Zulkifli Stork stood for Amir Shariffuddin.

The case was prosecuted by Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) DPP Mohd Asnawi Abu Hanifah.

Earlier, the three accused arrived clad in orange lockup T-shirts and were escorted by MACC officers into the court at around 8.40am.

The Star by kathleen ann kili

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Penang Chief Minister may have too much on his plate, be fair when sharing power


 

CM may have too much on his plate

GEORGE TOWN: Penang Gerakan has questioned the efficiency of Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng as the chairman of numerous state-linked agencies and departments.

Its publicity bureau chief Ooi Zhi Yi said that besides being the chief minister, the Bagan MP and Air Putih assemblyman chairs 11 agencies and departments.

“He was recently also appointed chairman of the Penang Stadium Corporation And Open Spaces at the state assembly sitting,” he said.

Ooi asked what had happened to the DAP’s decentralisation of administration and power-sharing policy which it claimed to advocate?

“Is Lim able to handle various responsibilities in different agencies and departments simultaneously?

“Why can’t the state government identify any state executive councillor or assemblyman to hold some of the posts?” he further asked at a press conference at the Gerakan headquarters yesterday

The 11 state agencies and departments which Lim heads are the Penang Development Corporation (PDC), PBA Holdings Bhd (PBAHB) and its unit Perbadanan Bekalan Air Pulau Pinang (PBAPP), Penang Global Tourism (PGT), Penang Hill Corporation (PHC), Penang Convention and Exhibition Bureau (PCEB), George Town World Heritage Inc (GTWHI), the Penang State Museum, investPenang and two subsidiaries under PDC namely the BPO Premier Sdn Bhd and Premier Horizon Ventures Snd Bhd.

When contacted yesterday, Wong Hon Wai, who is Lim’s political secretary, said it is a customary process for a state leader to hold important positions in all the government statutory bodies.

“It is similar to how the Prime Minister and Mentri Besar chair important government bodies,” he explained. – Tbe Star

‘Be fair when sharing power’‘

GEORGE TOWN: The MCA wants the Penang government to create a check-and-balance to counter the Chief Minister’s influence in 19-state linked agencies, statutory bodies and government subsidiaries which he helms.

Penang MCA organising secretary Dr Tan Chuan Hong said the mechanism must include NGOs such as the Penang Forum, Consumers Association of Penang and Penang Heritage Trust.

He said the NGOs should have the right to oppose and express their views whenever needed.

He said Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng had in a written reply to Sungai Dua assemblyman Muhamad Yusoff Mohd Noor at the recent state legislative assembly sitting revealed that he was the chairman of 19 bodies.

“This is not only shocking but also contradicts the CAT principles of Competency, Accountability and Transparency which the DAP-led state claims to practise.

“Where is a person’s credibility if he holds all positions which are closely associated with his position as chief minister. And what about the power-sharing principle advocated by the state government?” Tan asked.

He said since Lim ‘monopolised’ most of the chairman positions, state exco members such as Chow Kon Yeow, Danny Law and Jagdeep Singh seemed to be given merely supplementary roles to play.

Among the bodies helmed by Lim are the Penang Development Corp (PDC), Penang Global Tourism, PICEB Sdn Bhd, PGC Strategies Sdn Bhd, Penang Water Supply Corp Bhd (PBAPP), PBA Holdings Bhd, Penang Hill Corp, Invest Penang and the state museum board.

He gets an annual RM10,000 allowance as PDC chairman, RM3,000 monthly allowance as PBAPP chairman and RM500 monthly allowance as PBA Holdings Bhd chairman.

Lim also gets allowances which range from RM250 to RM500 per meeting that he attends in some of the statutory bodies and subsidiaries that he helms. – The Star

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MACC starts probe on Felda Global Ventures Holdings Bhd (FGV)



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PUTRAJAYA: The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission has begun its investigation into alleged im­­proprieties involving Felda Global Ventures Holdings Bhd (FGV), a day after its group president and CEO Datuk Zakaria Arshad was told to take an indefinite leave of absence.

The MACC took a statement from Zakaria, who was called to its headquarters here yesterday.

The commission’s next move will be to send investigators to FGV headquarters in Kuala Lumpur to “see what they can find” and determine if there is a case.

Zakaria, 57, arrived at the MACC headquarters at 2.20pm alone, with no lawyers or associates accompanying him.

He brought along a stack of files, which he claimed were documents on FGV.

Zakaria looked calm when he arrived and maintained the same demeanour when he left some four hours later.

“The MACC asked me to come today. I’m also here to hand over some documents to them,” he told reporters, adding that his session was not over.

“I will be called again to give my statement, and I will give my full co-operation.”

MACC deputy chief commis­sioner Datuk Azam Baki told The Star: “We will go through his statement and will decide what to do next.”

Azam also confirmed that anti-graft investigators would go to FGV headquarters at 10am today to get hold of more documents.

On Tuesday, Zakaria and three other FGV officers were asked to take a leave of absence, which chairman Tan Sri Mohd Isa Abdul Samad said was a decision made by the board.

The other three are FGV chief financial officer Ahmad Tifli Mohd Talha, FGV Trading CEO Ahmad Salman Omar and Delima Oil Products senior general manager Kamarzaman Abd Karim.

The board’s decision came a day after Zakaria was told to resign by Isa following a series of board meetings since May 31 concerning delayed payments owed to Delima Oil Products Sdn Bhd by Safitex Trading LLC, an Afghan company with an array of businesses and headquartered in Du­­bai.

Zakaria subsequently urged the MACC to investigate allegations of improprieties in FGV and asked the commission to probe the parties behind the contracts.

Sources: The Star  by mazwin nik anis, he mananthini sivanandam, syed azhar

 

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What concerns Malaysians most ?


Supermarket shopping food

THE biggest concern among Malaysians, as we head towards the general election, is the cost of living. It’s as simple as that.

There have been plenty of political and religious side shows, but for many Malaysians, regardless of race, settling the many bills each month is what worries them the most.

Although Malaysia remains one of the cheapest countries to live in, its citizens have been spoilt for too long.

We are so used to having so many food items subsidised, including sugar, at one time, to the point that some of us have had difficulties adjusting ourselves.

Our neighbours still come to Malaysia to buy petrol, because ours is still cheaper than theirs.

But, as in any elections, politicians will always promise the heavens to get our votes. One of the promises, we have already heard, is the abolishment of the Goods and Services Tax.

No doubt that doing away with GST would appeal to voters, but seriously, even the opposition politicians calling for this are aware that it is a counter-productive move.

In the words of Tan Sri Mohd Sheriff Mohd Kassim, a highly-respected retired government servant, “it is too much of a fairy tale.”

The danger, of course, is that populist electoral pledges are always appealing, even if they are not rational.

Malaysia cannot depend on just about two million tax payers to foot the bill in a country of over 30 million people. It is unfair and unsustainable.

Taxing consumption gives more stability to revenue because income tax is regarded as highly volatile, as it depends very much on the ups and downs of businesses, according to Mohd Sheriff. When the market is soft, revenue collection always sees a dip.

For the government, which has already been criticised for having such a huge civil service, without GST, it could even mean its workers may not get paid when there is a downturn in the economy.

In the case of Malaysia, we have lost a substantial amount of revenue following the drop in oil price.

So, when politicians make promises, claiming plugging leakages is sufficient to end GST, it is really far-fetched and irresponsible.

The Malaysian tax system needs to continue to be more consumption-oriented to make it recession-proof, and, more importantly, the tax net just has to be widened. The bottom line is that, it is grossly unfair for two million people to shoulder the burden.

The government has done the right thing by widening the tax base and narrowing the fiscal deficit. The move to implement GST, introduced in 2014, has been proven right.

GST is needed to provide a strong substitute as a tax consumption capable of off-setting revenue loss from personal and corporate tax.

Beginning next month, India will join nearly 160 countries, including Malaysia, in introducing GST. Like Malaysia, when GST was first introduced, plenty of loud grumblings and doubts have rolled out.

Unlike Malaysia’s flat 6% across the board, India is introducing a more complicated four-tier GST tax structure of 5%, 12%, 18% and 28%, with lower rates for essential items and highest for luxury and demerits goods that would also attract additional cess.

In Singapore, GST was introduced on April 1, 1994, at 3%. The rate was increased to 4% in 2003, then 5% in 2004. It was raised to 7% on July 1, 2007.

Some politicians came under fire recently for purportedly calling for the abolishment of GST, however, some others clarified that they had merely called for a reduction in the tax’s percentage.

Another top opposition politician has come out as the strongest opponent of GST, reportedly saying the claim that Malaysia needs GST is false.

Some other politicians have described GST as regressive, but have not come out with clear ideas on how it should be tackled.

Nonetheless, the ruling party should not make light of these electoral promises.

For many in the urban middle class, they feel the squeeze the most.

They have struggled against the rising cost of living, paying house and car loans, and earning deep levels of debt, as one report aptly put.

The middle class, consisting of over 40% of Malaysians, is also in the income tax bracket, it must be noted.

Last year, an economist was quoted saying that 2016 was a year of a shrinking urban middle class and a happy upper class.

Shankar Chelliah, an associate professor at Universiti Sains Malaysia, said that the Malaysian middle class shrank in metropolitan centres across the country, and that most of its members would end the year almost 40% poorer than they were in 2015.

He said this would be due to the withdrawal of cooking oil and sugar subsidies, depreciation of the ringgit, decrease in foreign inflows and increase in outflows, among other factors.

For many in this middle class range who do not qualify for BR1M handouts, the government clearly has to come up with a range of programmes which can relieve them of these burdens.

It isn’t race or religious issues that will appeal to voters – they want to know how they can lead better lives, and if the opposition thinks contentious issues will translate into votes, they will be in for a surprise.

It is true that the heartland will continue to deliver the crucial votes, and the ruling party will benefit from this, but Malaysia has also become more urban and more connected.

At the end of the day, it is the bread and butter issues that matter most. Let’s hear some solid ideas and programmes which will reduce the burden of Malaysians.

By Wong Chun Wai On the beat, The Star

Wong Chun Wai began his career as a journalist in Penang, and has served The Star for over 27 years in various capacities and roles. He is now the group’s managing director/chief executive officer and formerly the group chief editor.

On The Beat made its debut on Feb 23 1997 and Chun Wai has penned the column weekly without a break, except for the occasional press holiday when the paper was not published. In May 2011, a compilation of selected articles of On The Beat was published as a book and launched in conjunction with his 50th birthday. Chun Wai also comments on current issues in The Star.

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Stop corrupt practices, DPM tells police officers, reshuffles top cops to rectify problems


Video:

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http://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2017/05/22/stop-corrupt-practices-now-dpm-tells-police-officers-zahid-irresponsible-acts-by-police-officers-hav/http://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2017/05/22/stop-corrupt-practices-now-dpm-tells-police-officers-zahid-irresponsible-acts-by-police-officers-hav/

KUALA LUMPUR: It is time for police officers to put a stop to irresponsible and corrupt behaviour within their ranks, says Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.

He said there were reports that some senior officers had pressured lower-ranked officers, including OCPDs, to finance “celebrations” for them during gatherings.

In the end, the lower-ranking personnel were forced to be involved in corrupt acts.

Dr Ahmad Zahid, who is Home Minister, said such “bullying” should stop as there were complaints made on senior officers.

Dr Ahmad Zahid said there was a case of an OCPD who had to find outside sources of income to allow him to organise celebrations for the senior officers.

Such an excuse is unacceptable, he added.

“This is a stupid excuse, if this matter had actually happened, as it goes against the principle of integrity for all enforcement officers who are supposed to protect the public.

“The days of officers receiving illegal profits and income from non-halal sources are gone. We will never accept such behaviour anymore,” he said at a treasure hunt with the media organised by the Home Ministry yesterday.

He ordered Bukit Aman’s Integrity and Standard Compliance Department and the Special Branch to investigate such claims within the force.

“I don’t deny that there are a few bad apples who bring a bad name to the enforcement agencies. But this behaviour must stop immediately,” he said.

On a separate matter, Dr Ahmad Zahid said the petition signed by Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad calling for the release of jailed PKR leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim is meant “to wash away his own sins”.

He said the people knew that it was Dr Mahathir who put Anwar in jail when the former prime minister was still in power.

He was also informed that there was another petition submitted by Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail to the Pardons Board for a royal pardon for her husband.

“I believe that is the better way. And I do not wish to interfere with the powers provided by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to the Pardons Board for them to make such a decision,” he said.

By Rahimy Rahim The Star

Zahid: We will reshuffle police force, trust me and top cops to rectify problems within police force 

 

DENGKIL: Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi (pic) is asking the public to trust him and the top brass of the police as the force undergoes extensive reshuffling to “correct things from within”.

Dr Ahmad Zahid, who is Home Minister, was responding to a string of arrests of police personnel by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Com­mis­sion (MACC) recently.

“We appreciate the monitoring by other agencies, but excessive publicity on their operation has led to negative perception on the police.

“What I can say is that we are committed to making changes, and that a major reshuffle is taking place as we speak,” he told repor­ters after attending zohor prayers and lunch at the Bukit Dugang orang asli village here yesterday.

The police came under the spotlight after MACC picked up seven police personnel in Melaka, including two district police chiefs, for alleged graft.

They are believed to be part of a racket providing protection to illegal gambling dens and massage parlours.

Police have also nabbed their own men – 21 high-ranking narcotics officers – under Ops Kabaddi, a nationwide operation to weed out corrupt officers.

The narcotics officers, including a deputy superintendent and an inspector, were being investigated for alleged involvement with drug syndicates.

However, Dr Ahmad Zahid said police would not announce the de­­tails of the reshuffling in order to avoid any further misunderstanding.

“I ask the public to trust us to do what is best for the people and the country,” he said.

Deputy Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Noor Rashid Ibrahim said the police would relook their transfer policy, which stipulates that transfers should take place every three years, adding that other factors do come into play before such orders are issued.

“We have to consider costs and personal issues involving our men,” he said.

Source: The Star by mazwin nik anis

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Reject corrupt practices, weed out the bad apples, don’t hesitate reporting bribery


PENANG Yang di-Pertua Negri Tun Abdul Rahman Abbas has urged public servants to defend the good name of the civil service by rejecting corruption and misuse of power.

“I fully support efforts in eradicating corruption among public servants by taking strict action against those found guilty, including termination of service,” he said in his speech when opening the fifth term of the 13th state assembly at the state legislative assembly building in George Town yesterday.

Abdul Rahman evoked the example of Prophet Sulaiman (Solomon), who spurned bribes, as an inspiration for civil servants in carrying out their duties.

On the economy, Abdul Rahman said Penang received RM4.3bil in investments, with 106 projects approved last year.

“From that amount, RM3.1bil was from foreign investment while RM1.2bil was from domestic investment,” he added.

In agriculture, he said livestock production value increased from RM827.96mil in 2015 to RM842.55mil last year, with the amount expected to continue growing and exceed RM850mil by 2018.

Abdul Rahman praised the state for its efforts to promote medical tourism by establishing the Penang Center of Medical Tourism (PMED) involving 10 private hospitals in the state.

He said the number of tourists seeking medical services in Penang increased by 14.77% from 302,000 in 2015 to 347,000 last year.

“Income also increased by 17.92% in the same period, from RM391mil in 2015 to RM458mil last year,” he added.

Earlier, Abdul Rahman inspected a guard-of-honour by 102 Federal Reserve Unit personnel.

The state assembly sitting is scheduled to start at 9.30am on Monday.

Pulau Betong assemblyman Datuk Farid Saad was earlier quoted as saying that it was unfair to reject the Opposition’s two motions, one asking Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng to step down pending his corruption trial while the other called for civil servants to take leave if they are charged with corruption.

“We will bring it up during our debate in the assembly and let the people decide if the state government practised what it preached,” he had said.

It was also reported that a motion would be tabled by Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng or a state exco member to censure Tasek Gelugor MP Datuk Shabudin Yahaya over his controversial remarks in Parliament on child marriages.

Source: The Star by Lo Tern Chern

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