Penang exco man held in graft probe for abuse of power


 

 

Arrest linked to illegal operation of carbon filter factory in Bukit Mertajam

For 10 years, a factory has been illegally burning sawdust to produce carbon for filters, forcing villagers and schoolchildren in parts of Bukit Mertajam to breathe dust-laden smoke every day. The matter has now flared up with the arrest of Penang exco man Phee Boon Poh and two of the factory’s directors by the MACC. All three are set to be remanded today.

GEORGE TOWN: An illegal carbon filter processing factory has become a burning issue in Penang with the arrest of state executive councillor Phee Boon Poh and two factory di­­rectors by graft-busters from the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commis­­sion (MACC).

All three are expected to be remanded today.

The factory in Kampung Sungai Lembu in Bukit Mertajam was in the news on Wednesday when MACC officers raided its premises and seized several documents.

Yesterday, a team of five MACC officers raided Phee’s office at Level 53 in Komtar at about 11.30am and took away more documents.

Phee, who chairs the state Wel­­fare, Caring Society and Envi­­ron­­ment Committee, was asked to report to the Penang MACC headquarters in Jalan Sultan Ahmad Shah. He was arrested at 3.30pm when he turned up at the MACC building.

MACC deputy chief commissioner (operations) Datuk Azam Baki said Phee was detained under Section 23 of the MACC Act for abuse of power.

The section provides for a jail term of up to 20 years and a fine of up to five times the value of the bribe or RM10,000, whichever is higher.

The 66-year-old Phee was brought back to his house in Butterworth at about 5pm in his car and escorted by two MACC vehicles. It is learnt that he packed some personal be­­longings from his house before lea­­ving for the state MACC headquarters at 7.05pm.

The MACC also arrested a 70-year-old man and his 37-year-old son, the manager and director of the factory, at 6.05pm and 6.35pm respectively.

The two were summoned to the state MACC headquarters to give their statements before they were detained.

Lawyer R.S.N. Rayer, who accompanied Phee to the Penang MACC headquarters, said the exco man was asked to meet MACC officers after 2pm.

“I was informed that they (MACC officers) went to his office and took some documents including letters that he wrote. They wanted to re­­cord his statement regarding the documents.

“He gave his full cooperation and presented himself at the MACC office. I am surprised that he was arrested,” he said before leaving the state MACC building at about 4.30pm.

Earlier, the five MACC officers spent more than an hour in Phee’s office.

Shortly after they left, Phee and four assistants walked out of the office.

Phee declined to comment on the raid.

He is the second member of the current Penang state administration to be arrested by the MACC.

Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng was arrested in June last year over the purchase of a RM2.8mil bungalow in Pinhorn Road.

He was subsequently charged with using his position as the Chief Minister of Penang to gain gratification for himself and his wife, Betty Chew Gek Cheng, by approving the application for conversion of agriculture land to a public housing zone in south-west Penang to the com­­pany, Magnificient Emblem Sdn Bhd.

He allegedly committed the of­­fence while chairing the Penang State Planning Committee meeting at the operations room in the Komtar building on July 18, 2014.

The charge under Section 23 of the MACC Act 2009 provides for imprisonment of up to 20 years and a fine of up to five times the sum or value of the bribe, or RM10,000, whichever is higher, upon conviction.

Lim faces a second charge of using his position to obtain a plot of land and a bungalow located at No 25 Jalan Pinhorn, George Town, on July 28, 2015, from businesswoman Phang Li Koon for RM2.8mil, a price which he allegedly knew did not commensurate with the property’s market value at the time of RM4.27mil.

The charge, under Section 165 of the Penal Code, provides for a jail term of up to two years or a fine, or both, upon conviction.

Late last night, Lim was among several DAP leaders and members who turned up outside the state MACC headquarters to stage a candlelight vigil in support of Phee.

Source: The Star by crystal chiam shiying, chong kah yuan, lo tern chern, andlogeiswary thevadass

10 years of smoke in the eyes for villagers

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BUKIT MERTAJAM: For about 10 years now, the villagers of Kampung Sungai Lembu have been forced to breathe air laden with pollutants. Children going to school at SJK(C) Kampung Sungai Lembu also have had to put up with the thick dust.

The air is thick with a burning smell from the processing activities at an illegal carbon filter processing factory, just 1km away from the school.

The 5,000sq-m factory, about the size of a football field, has piles upon piles of sawdust, much of it burning in deep pits.

The tall chimneys spout white pollutant-filled smoke into the air which is carried to the nearby villages by the slight breeze.

A source from the Department of Environment revealed that the factory also did not have an air pollution control system.

Kampung Sungai Lembu Deve­lop­ment and Security Committee chairman Tan Sing Lee, 58, said the factory also carried out open burning of sawdust to produce carbon.

“Every time the wind blows our way especially in December, the air is polluted. At night, the air is foggy and villagers complain about the smell,” he said.

“We reported the matter to Penanti assemblyman Dr Norlela Ariffin but no action was taken in the past two years,” he said.

The factory is also situated inside an oil palm estate, on land designated for agriculture.

Tan claimed a man in his 30s died in 2015 after he fell into one of the pits while filling it with sawdust.

A check by The Star at the factory yesterday found 20 pits, each measuring about 3m across. The pits were filled with burning sawdust and there was smoke everywhere. The sawdust is burnt to produce carbon which is then used in filters.

Permatang Pauh Umno chief Da­­tuk Mohd Zaidi Mohd Said claimed there may have been people in­­volved in covering up the issue before the raid on the factory by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commis­­sion (MACC) on Thursday.

“Several reports have been lodged against the factory.

It is impossible for the Seberang Prai Municipal Council to not be aware of it,” he said during a press conference in Kampung Sungai Lembu.

Also present was Parti Cinta Malaysia deputy president Datuk Huan Cheng Guan.

PKR rep Norlela glad over action against illegal factory

 

BUKIT MERTAJAM: Penan­ti’s PKR assemblyman Dr Norlela Ariffin (pic) is pleased that action is finally being taken by the MACC over an illegal factory in Kampung Sungai Lembu.

Dr Norlela said she raised the issue of the carbon filter processing factory more than two years ago. “The villagers told me about their concerns in February 2015. I raised the matter at the state assembly sitting but no ac­­tion was taken for two years,” she said.

It was in November that Dr Norlela broke down and sobbed uncontrollably at the assembly, clai­­ming the state government had failed to respond to her queries.

She lamented then that she had complained of many woes like illegal factories, frequent flooding and the lack of infrastructure like roads and proper jetties for fishermen.

“Early this year, before the state assembly sitting, villagers handed me an 18-page petition, appealing for the factory to be closed as they claimed it was affecting their health.

“It was also found that the factory was not operating according to guide­­­­lines,” she said yesterday.

In May, her allocation was withheld after she did not show up at the Yang di-Pertua Negri’s swearing-in ceremony.

Earlier this month, she complained that funds collected for flood mitigation had not been used to help her constituents.

“In Penanti alone, there are nine flood-prone areas that could greatly benefit from these funds,” she re­­portedly said, citing the Auditor Ge­­­ne­­ral’s Report 2016 Series 1 which revealed that the Seberang Prai Municipal Council had only used RM2.2mil of RM63.39mil collected from 2008 to June 2016.

Dr Norlela is among several as­­sem­­blymen who have been at loggerheads with the state leadership, often criticising it for not carrying out its duties or for not caring about the environment,

Last month, she praised the Sungai Buloh-Kajang MRT project and took a swipe at the Penang Transport Master Plan by comparing the construction cost of both projects in a video she posted on social media.


DAP’s lone ranger faces his biggest test

GEORGE TOWN: Two-term Pe­­nang executive councillor Phee Boon Poh, 66, gained fame as a vocal opposition leader when he took on 38 Barisan Nasional representatives in the state assembly when he was the sole DAP assemblyman from 2004 until 2008.

Despite being overwhelmed, the “lone ranger” raised many issues.

Although PAS was represented by Mohd Hamdan Abdul Rahman, it was Phee who questioned the policies of the state administration headed by Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon.

Phee began his political career by winning the Bagan Jermal state seat in 1990, only to lose it to Barisan’s Tan Sri Dr Sak Cheng Lum in 1995.

In 1999, he contested the Sungai Puyu seat but lost to Barisan’s Loo Ah Dee. In 2004, he wrested it from Loo with a 607-vote majority.

In 2008, he retained his state seat with a 9,201-vote majority and was appointed state Welfare and Caring Society chairman.

He later took over the environment portfolio from state exco member Chow Kon Yeow.

In the 2013 general election, he beat MCA’s Sum Yoo Keong by 16,207 votes.

Phee is a distant relative of businesswoman Phang Li Koon, who has been charged with abetment in the two corruption cases against Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng.


MACC probes Phee’s letters – Directing council to ‘stay away’ under investigation

Phee Boon Poh mobbed by the media after he was remanded in George Town. — ZAINUDIN AHAD and ZHAFARAN NASIB/The Star

PENANG: The Malaysian Anti-Corrup­tion Commission (MACC) is investigating two letters, which appear to have originated from state executive councillor Phee Boon Poh, asking that no action be taken against an illegal factory.

The letters, written in 2015 and 2016, directed the Seberang Prai Municipal Council from shutting down the carbon filter-processing factory which had been operating illegally for the past 10 years.

The MACC is also investigating whether Phee or his officials had authorised the letters telling the council to back off.

As Phee and two of the company’s directors were remanded yesterday, the MACC is expected to call up a DAP state assemblyman for questioning.

The MACC is believed to be investigating the role of this state assemblyman in the case.

It is understood that MACC is also probing the relationship between Phee and the factory owners.

It wants to find out how the factory could operate openly despite complaints from the villagers nearby.

“The illegal factory is on an agro-based land. (We want to know) why it has been able to operate without any action (taken against it),” a source told Sunday Star.

 

Too close for comfort: The illegal carbon filter-processing factory still operating and its proximity to Kampung Sungai Lembu and surrounding areas near Bukit Mertajam. 

When contacted, MACC deputy chief commissioner (operations) Datuk Azam Baki said the anti-graft body will carry out a thorough probe and look into all angles.

Azam said investigations will focus on the element of abuse of power.

“We have opened an investigation paper under Section 23 of the MACC Act.

“We will look into whether one of the suspects has given (any form of) protection to the illegal factory to enable it to continue operating the last 10 years,” he said.

He declined to elaborate further as investigations were ongoing.

Sources said anti-graft officers revisited the house of the state exco member in Sungai Puyu on the mainland to look for more evidence to assist in the probe.

It is not immediately known if documents were seized.

The homes and offices of two other suspects will also be revisited as part of the probe.

More arrests are expected in the coming days as investigations into the case widen.

Source: The Star by simon khoo, crystal chiam shiying, lo tern chern, akil yunus

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No protection for corrupt in Penang govt, says Guan Eng | Free …

 The Penang government will not protect any of its officials … Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng says he believes state exco man Phee Boon … Phee, who is in charge of the welfare, caring society and environment portfolio, was arrested yesterday by the MACC over alleged misuse of power.

 

Phee and two others remanded for five days

 

Ilegal factory caused dirty air, say villagers

 

Arrest is to whitewash corruption, claims Kit Siang

 

Two MPSP officers hauled up

 

PKR rep Norlela blamed for Phee’s arrest

 

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Hello, Penang police calling … Macau Scammers reap RM2.7mil


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Scammers busted: Penang CCID chief ACP Abdul Ghani Ahmad, flanked by DSP K. Balachandran and DSP Shamsul Farid Abdul Rani, showing seized passports, a photocopy of a MyKad and a letter during a press conference on the Macau Scam syndicate in George Town.
But the ‘officer’ on the other end of the line may well have been a member of a Macau Scam syndicate, which cloned the phone number of the state police headquarters to use in its con game. The operation, believed to have netted RM2.74mil so far, was smash

Syndicate cloned police phone number to trick 82 victims this year.

GEORGE TOWN: A Macau Scam syndicate has duped victims of more than RM2.74mil, using Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology to replicate the telephone number of the Penang police headquarters to con victims.

No fewer than 82 people had fallen prey to the scam since February.

The syndicate used a three-storey bungalow as its training centre before the members were deployed to Japan, Cambodia, Thailand and other Asian countries.

On Saturday, the syndicate was crippled by police following the arrest of 50 people, including three women.

Penang Commercial Crime Investigation Department (CCID) chief Asst Comm Abdul Ghani Ahmad said the suspects, aged between 17 and 42, were arrested at the bungalow in Taman Damai Utama in Puchong, Selangor, at about 8am.

“Intelligence gathering was carried out for about a month after we received a police report from a woman in Balik Pulau, who transferred RM5,000 to an account given by the scammers,” he told a press conference at the state police headquarters in Penang Road yesterday.

“She was told that her bank account would be frozen by Bank Negara Malaysia.

“The scammers promised to return the money to her a week later after the ‘investigations’ were over, but she did not get her money back.”

ACP Abdul Ghani said police investigations revealed that one of the suspects would pose as a bank officer and tell the victim that he or she had a loan with a particular bank.

If the victim denied it, the scammer would give them the contact number of a “Bank Negara officer” – another scammer – to check out the claim.

Those who are still not convinced would then receive a call from 04222 1522, which appeared to be the general line of the state police headquarters but had been replicated or cloned using VoIP technology to appear as such.

ACP Abdul Ghani added that another scammer, posing as a CCID officer, would then tell the victim that his or her bank account had been misused for criminal activities and was frozen pending investigation.

“The scammer will then ask the victim to transfer money to a specific account, and that would be the last they see of their money,” he said.

ACP Abdul Ghani added that 82 reports were lodged nationwide on this scam so far this year.

He said police also seized five mobile phones, a laptop, photocopied MyKad, photocopied passports, a set of scripts on what to say when posing as a police officer and bank officer, and 31 Malaysian passports.

In Police Custody: Some of the passports and Mykads seized from the Macau Scam syndicate being displayed at the state police headquarters in Georgetown.

“We are also checking if the mastermind was among the suspects arrested,” he said.

ACP Abdul Ghani added that the suspects were remanded for three days until today and would be brought to the Balik Pulau court for remand extension pending investigations under Section 420 of the Penal Code for cheating.

Nobody knows exactly how the term “Macau Scam” came to be used.

However, former Interpol president Tan Sri Khoo Boon Hui has been quoted as saying that the scam apparently originated from Macau and was operated from other countries such as Cambodia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand.

Another version circulating was that the first victims were in Macau, but the Macau police have declined to comment.

Source: The Star by crystal chiam shiyingandmuhammad nazrul haffiz salim

Remand of Macau Scam suspects extended

BALIK PULAU: Fifty suspects of the Macau Scam syndicate have their remand order extended by another three days by a magistrate’s court here.

Sirens from four police cars blared as two trucks arrived at the courthouse at about 8.40am yesterday.

Dressed in purple lockup T-shirts, the suspects, aged between 17 and 42 who include three women, hid their faces when they saw the press corp.

They are believed to be part of a Macau Scam syndicate which used Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology to swindle 82 victims of more than RM2.74mil since February.

It was reported that the syndicate used VoIP to replicate the hotline number of the Penang police headquarters to trick victims.

They were arrested at a bungalow in Taman Damai Utama in Puchong, Selangor, at about 8am on Saturday after a woman from Balik Pulau lodged a report, claiming she had been duped into transferring RM5,000 to an account.

Police are investigating the case under Section 420 of the Penal Code for cheating. – The Star

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Two virtual coin get-rich schemes red-flagged by Malaysian Central Bank


GEORGE TOWN: Two more popular financial schemes in Penang have been red-flagged by Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM).

A check on the financial consumer alert list yesterday showed MBI International Sdn Bhd and Mface International Sdn Bhd to be the latest additions.

Both are subsidiaries of MBI Group International, a company with investors worldwide, many of them from China.

To date, 302 companies have been listed under the BNM financial consumer alert list, for suspicion of not adhering to relevant laws and regulations administered by BNM in their operations.

Under the Financial Services Act 2013, individuals or businesses involved in illegal financial activities can be fined up to RM50mil and jailed for 10 years.

When contacted by a Chinese daily, MBI International chairman Tedy Teow’s special assistant Alfa said he did not think that the company would face any problem.

“And it is unnecessary for us to hold a press conference to explain the situation to our investors.

“We are always doing our work and we believe that our investors can see how we are performing so far,” he told Sin Chew Daily.

An investor, H.L. Teoh, said he put in RM22,500 early this year and was given 10,000 game redemption credits.

“Actually, I can start selling it every six months, but I was advised to wait for it to grow bigger in three years.

“When you have lots of credit, it is like having a lot of virtual shares.

“Now, I will have to wait for further instructions from the company before my next course of action,” he said.

Members are allowed to spend their loyalty points, which are converted from virtual money or coins, in exchange for goods and services at affiliated companies, including a supermarket, restaurants, a gym and even a durian stall.

Meanwhile, a press conference called by a branch representative of another controversial financial scheme operator, JJPTR, was cancelled at the last minute.

Press members in Penang had received an invitation from a man known only as Lim at 8.30am yesterday.

However, no reason was given for the cancellation.

JJPTR has been grabbing headlines in the past few weeks since its founder Johnson Lee claimed that the company had lost US$400mil (RM1.738bil) due to a purported “hacking job”.

Lee and two of his top aides have been detained by the police to facilitate investigations following several police reports lodged against JJPTR.

In another case, 19 Chinese nationals lodged police reports in Kuala Lumpur against another multi-level marketing company, claiming that they had lost hundreds of thousands of ringgit.

They claimed to have lost between 100,000 yuan (RM62,536) and 700,000 yuan (RM437,754) since investing in the scheme by Monspace last year.

Founded in 2014, Monspace is listed as a multi-level marketing company, according to the Com­panies Commission of Malaysia.

In an immediate response, Monspace said it would take legal action against any group or individual making defamatory statements against it.

The company said in a statement to the media that it was functioning professionally and had engaged a law firm to keep track of statements made about it.

Source: The Star/ANN by Crystal Chiam Shiying

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Get-rich-quick schemes thriving in Penang: many losers in the money game!


CALL them pyramid, Ponzi or get-rich-quick schemes and people might shy away. But call them money games, and suddenly they are just games, is that right?

What can be so diabolical about that?

Penang lang (people) are very much into money games. That’s what Ben, a Penangite who now lives in Australia, found out when he came back for a holiday three weeks ago.

Ben’s friends and relatives tried to rope him into money games. They themselves had “invested” in a few “games”.

He was astounded by their obsession. It does seem as if money games are on the minds of many Penangites now.

I hear about them at the coffee shops and watering holes. And yes, many of my buddies are into them too.

You will likely be the odd one out if you are not into such schemes these days.

JJPTR is a now household acronym after almost two years in the market. It stands for JJ Poor-to-Rich and the very name resonated well with middle-class families.

Its 20% monthly payouts were always on time, until the recent hacking job.

Then came Richway Global Venture, Change Your Life (CYL) and BTC I-system, but they too are said to be in troubled waters these days.

Attempts by many journalists to contact them have been unsuccessful.

The money game list is quite long, and Penang has the dubious honour of being the home base for many.

Another friend, Robert, had a jolt when a doctor he knew told patients to put their money into such a scheme. A doctor!

From the cleaners at his office to the hawkers and professionals he met, everyone, it seems, was convinced. None questioned how the high returns could come to fruition in such a short time.

But Robert is a harsh critic of these games and would not go anywhere near them. He didn’t believe in their economic “principles”.

He even got into a big fight with his father, who put money into JJPTR.

And now, Robert has been proven right. Fortunately, his father was one of the lucky ones because he managed to recoup his principal sum, on top of the thousands more he had received over the past few months.

Billy, a man well-versed in such operations, said operators would always use forex trading or investment in foreign projects as cover stories to woo new members.

They paint vivid pictures of those joining becoming part of big-time developments in Third World countries like Cambodia and Vietnam.

Once you get closer to them, they will tell you outright it is a money game and that you are among the pioneers, sure to make a profit before the scheme bursts.

Things tend to be smooth sailing for the first few months. You see money coming back in and pride yourself in taking the risk.

But soon the saturation point is reached as new members to the pyramid slow to a trickle.

Then you can expect the scheme to collapse.

Billy pointed out that the higher the return on investment, the faster the scheme bursts.

That’s because the operator cannot get enough new members to keep the scheme sustainable. At the same time, he has to deal with huge monthly payouts.

Some in Penang may remember the chance to invest in a cafe chain known as Island Red Cafe around 10 years ago. Then there was that company that sold gold bars and coins. There was also a Swiss cash scheme which took the country by storm.

As long as there is greed, such schemes will always re-emerge. As they say, a fool and his money are soon parted.

Honestly, the quickest way to double your money is to fold it in half and put it back in your pocket.

Please bless the money game

Still very much alive: Investors of Mama Captain are allowed to continue trading their virtual money at any outlet displaying the ‘Barrel2U’ banner.

GEORGE TOWN: Some investors are seeking “divine intervention” for money games to last.

A 10-second video clip of a man praying aloud before a temple shrine is fast circula­ting on social media and phone chat groups.

His prayer goes: “Datuk Gong (deity), I pray to you. Please bless money games. Please help them stay afloat for a few more months.”

His prayer is in Penang Hokkien and he mentions “money game” in English.

It is believed to be a satirical meme on money games, and there are several more spreading.

Memes on the Penang-based JJPTR, or Jie Jiu Pu Tong Ren in Mandarin (salvation for the common people), have also gone viral online.

One of them, titled “Life without JJ” in Chinese, is accompanied by a picture of a plate of plain rice topped with a few strands of fried vegetable.

Another similarly titled meme shows grubby, tattered underwear and is captioned: “Don’t ask me how my life is lately. The underwear explains everything!”

Meanwhile, a man known as Bingyen has cynically adapted the lyrics of a popular Mandarin song Zui Jin Bi Jiao Fan (Troubled Recently) to relate to JJPTR.

Interestingly, the Chinese name of JJPTR founder Johnson Lee rhymes with one of the song’s singers, veteran Taiwanese musician Jonathan Lee. Both their names are similar in pinyin – Li Zong Sheng.

Bingyen, in his lyrics, also advised the people to stay away from money games.

According to speculation online and media reports, JJPTR investors, said to number in the tens of thousands locally and internationally, including Canada, the United States and China, stand to lose RM500mil.

Lee, who has blamed the company’s losses on hackers, however, put the figure at US$400mil (RM1.75bil) in a widely-circulated video recording later.

The 28-year-old founder, in a video posted on the JJPTR Malaysia Facebook page last week, made a promise to repay its members by May 20. Also on the same day, the company is supposed to hold a dinner gathering at Berjaya Times Square in Kuala Lumpur.

The forex trading company, along with its associate entities JJ Poor to Rich and JJ Global Network under http://www.jjptr.com, is among the 288 entities and individuals listed on Bank Negara’s Financial Con­sumer Alert as of Feb 24.

Source: Pinang points by Tan Sin Chow

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Corruptions, Conflict of interests, politicians and Malaysian bloated civil service


 

Ministers may face conflict of interest, says Tunku Abdul Aziz: 

 

“If you have no power, you cannot abuse it. Civil servants have a lot more power than their political masters and ministers”

 

‘With a population of 31 million, Malaysia has a ratio of one civil servant to almost 20 people.

‘To compare, the news report cited corresponding figures for several other countries: Singapore (1 to 71 people), Indonesia (1:110), South Korea (1:50), China (1:108), Japan (1:28), Russia (1:84) and
Britain (1:118).’

To keep graft in check, politicians should not be appointed to run government-linked companies, said Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission advisory board chairman Tunku Abdul Aziz Tunku Ibrahim (pic).

He said politicians holding GLC positions may face conflict of interest leading to abuse of power and responsibility.

In an interview with Bernama, he said: “Many appointments are made for political reasons. If you are appointed to a position with unanimous power, there are decisions you have to make on a daily basis, weekly, monthly and whatever.

“And in making these decisions, there will be some demands made on you because of your connections, your relatives, your friends and also your cronies.”

Tunku Abdul Aziz said this trend of abusing power because of conflict of interest has been happening since long ago, and may be stopped if the appointment for a top post in a GLC was conducted with “proper selection and screening”.

Tunku Abdul Aziz said the selection process must include going through the candidate’s background and track record.

He said there were always people out there who wanted special treatment, to have the advantage over their competitors.

“They don’t care how it is done (as long as they get the job)… This is where corruption starts.”

Tunku Abdul Aziz said that proper recruitment procedures and techniques could help achieve transparency and accountability, which are essential for top management.

“We can make corruption unprofitable business by making it more difficult to put your hand in the till.”

He believes that corruption is now taking place at the operating level.

“Ministers cannot sign or award contracts. But directors in some departments can do it. This is where abuse of power takes place,” he said.

“If you have no power, you cannot abuse it. Civil servants have a lot more power than their political masters and ministers (in awarding contracts),” he said.

He noted that the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission was now catching a lot more “big fish” than before the appointment of Datuk Dzulkifli Ahmad as the new head in July last year.

Tunku Abdul Aziz said MACC was a dedicated highly professional team focusing on the root causes of corruption while catching the crooks.

— BERNAMA

 

Time to trim the civil service

FINALLY, the Government has itself described the civil service as bloated.

To his credit, Second Finance Minister Datuk Johari Abdul Ghani openly and honestly stated that the civil service, although bloated, will not be reduced but will instead be made to multi-task to improve productivity. This statement is serious but also worrisome.

We now have one civil servant serving 19.37 people. The ratio is 1:110 for Indonesia, 1:108 for China, and 1:50 for South Korea. We won’t compare ourselves to the low ratio of 1:71.4 in Singapore because it’s a small island with hardly any rural population.

But why is our civil service so bloated? Firstly, we recruited rapidly to give jobs to the boys when the output from the education system expanded. We even had an “Isi Penuh” programme at one time. That is we rushed to create jobs and filled them fast!

Secondly, unlike the private sector, we rarely retrench staff even in bad times. We hardly sack anyone for inefficiency and even wastage of public funds.

Thirdly, the civil service has become a sacred cow that has to be handled gingerly for fear of reaction against the federal and state governments at the ballot box!

Life is relatively comfortable especially at the lower levels of the civil service. Salaries are better than before, pensions are secure, health provisions are generous, and the drive to be more productive is soft. In fact, there is now a strong manja-manja attitude towards civil servants.

The demand to join the civil service is high but the supply of jobs is slowing down considerably.

The Government should decide to reduce the size of the civil service to prevent the strain on the budget deficits, especially in the future.

Salary and pension bills are going up whereas productivity is not publicly perceived to be improving. Those who deal with civil servants often tell us more about the undue delays, corruption and “tidak apa” or lackadaisical attitude shown on the ground towards the public.

The Government should appoint a high-level task force, if not a royal commission, to examine ways and means of trimming the civil service to an efficient and reasonable size.

To start with, the Government should revise its stand on not reducing “the 1.6 million strong bloated civil service.” If it finds it difficult to reduce the civil service, then please freeze recruitment or make it more sparing and definitely more selective. Please go for more quality rather than quantity!

The civil service is huge because the public sector has been designed to be inordinately large. This has evolved because the private sector has been denied and deprived of greater opportunities to serve the public.

There are many government services, facilities and works and supplies that can be provided more efficiently by the business sector. In fact, this could be the way forward for more bumiputra contractors and other races to participate more actively and competitively to serve our society better.

The cost of maintaining the civil service, at RM74bil in 2016 for salaries and allowances, is not sustainable.

The pension bill of RM19bil per annum, without any contribution to the GDP by retirees, is also unbearable in the longer term. At the same time, according to Johari, revenue from palm oil and other commodities have been falling drastically. So where do we go from here?

It is basic economic and financial logic that we cannot afford to cope with rising salary expenditure and lower revenue. It is much more difficult to raise revenue than to cut expenditure.

The Government has said that our fundamentals are strong. Indeed, they are reasonably healthy at this time. But at this rate of a growing civil service that is now acknowledged as bloated, we cannot afford to assume that the economic and financial fundamentals can continue to be strong for much longer.

My appeal then is for Government to more actively seek to reduce the size of the civil service and to act without undue delay. Our good economic fundamentals are being seriously threatened and we must preserve and protect them from further risks.

TAN SRI RAMON NAVARATNAM , Chairman Asli Center of Public Policy Studies

An effective civil service does not burden Govt

Civil Servants

IN a recent interview with a vernacular newspaper, Second Finance Minister Datuk Johari Abdul Ghani brought up a matter that is seldom highlighted publicly – the size of the Malaysian public sector.

He said the country’s 1.6 million government employees formed “the world’s largest proportion of civil service”.

With a population of 31 million, Malaysia has a ratio of one civil servant to almost 20 people.

To compare, the news report cited corresponding figures for several other countries: Singapore (1 to 71 people), Indonesia (1:110), South Korea (1:50), China (1:108), Japan (1:28), Russia (1:84) and Britain (1:118).

Johari was making the point that a major challenge for the Government was the rising costs of running the public service system.

This is particularly tough when there is a decline in the taxes and other receipts collected from the oil and gas and palm oil industries.

However, he added that there were no plans to reduce the civil service head count.

The minister has won praise for bringing attention to an issue that many have long felt deserves public awareness and discussion.

Emoluments are by far the biggest component of the Government’s operating expenditure, and that cost has kept expanding.

Back in 2006, emoluments totalling RM28.5bil made up 26.5% of the operating expenditure. A decade later, the percentage is estimated to be 35.7%. To pay its employees this year, the Government has allocated RM77.4bil, which is 36% of the budgeted operating expenditure.

And let us not forget the retired civil servants. According to the Public Services Department, there were 739,000 public service pensioners in 2015, and every year, 23,000 people join this group.

In 2010, the Government spent RM11.5bil on pensions and gratuities, accounting for 7.6% of the operating expenditure. In the Budget 2017, retirement charges will come to RM21.8bil, about 10% of operating expenditure.

Although Johari did not appear to use the phrase in the interview, others were quick to talk about the “bloated civil service”.

It should be pointed out that measuring and comparing the sizes of the public sector can be tricky and misleading. There are different ways of defining a civil servant. And the width and depth of a public service system is very much determined by the country’s prosperity and policies.

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development looks at public sector employment as a percentage of total employment. In 2013, the average among its members was slightly above 19%.

In Malaysia, civil servants represent 10.8% of our labour force. Perhaps, the public sector is not bloated after all.

On the other hand, we must bear in mind that the number of government employees is growing faster than the country’s labour force.

But we cannot discuss quantity and ignore quality. The issue here is not about how large our public service system is; it is whether the system is larger than necessary.

No matter how big, the numbers make sense if they yield excellent results and lead to robust revenue growth.

At a time when the Government is pushing hard in areas such as innovation, productivity and good governance, the civil service ought to lead by example.

There are already ongoing efforts to transform public service in Malaysia and surely the hope is that these initiatives will result in greater transparency and accountability, enhanced competitiveness, and a high-performance culture,

What is also absolutely clear to us is that the Government’s financial obligations are increasingly heavy, and much of this has to do with the emoluments and pensions it pays.

It is realistic to expect the Government to be more prudent in its hiring of new employees. It cannot afford to be the country’s default employer and young people are wrong to blame the Government if there are no civil service vacancies for them to fill.

The public sector’s primary role is to serve the country’s needs effectively and efficiently. It cannot do that if it is a burden to the Government and ultimately the people. -The Star Says

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Weeding out the worrying graft and corruption among Malaysian youths and politicians!


MACC deputy chief commissioner (prevention) Datuk Shamshun Baharin Mohd Jamil

MACC reveals ‘worrying statistics’

KUALA LUMPUR: More than 50% of those arrested by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) in the past three years were aged below 40.

MACC deputy chief commissioner (prevention) Datuk Shamshun Baharin Mohd Jamil expressed concern over the finding and said it as an “alarming situation”.

Of the 2,329 people arrested since 2014, 1,267 were below 40.

“People in this age group are supposed to be nation’s backbone, who will shape the future of our country,” he said in his keynote speech at a public forum organised by the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (Ideas) yesterday.

Shamshun said about 982 investigation papers were opened, 932 people were detained and 258 charged by the anti-graft body last year.

“MACC plans to engage with youths this year. The Gen-Y group always finds an easy way. We have to guide them from young and create awareness of what is happening around them,” he said.

On MACC seeking more allocation, Shamshun said the extra funds were for them to implement what they planned for the year.

“We need more whistle-blowers who can voluntarily come forward to report or provide information on corruption activities.”

He said such individuals will be protected under the Whistleblower Protection Act 2010, that shields informants from action. – by Ashwin Kumar thesun

Weeding out graft among youths

KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysia Anti Corruption Commission (MACC) will push on with efforts to eradicate corruption in the civil service in the face of budget cuts, says its deputy chief commissioner (prevention).

Datuk Shamshun Baharin Mohd Jamil (pic) told reporters that the commissions’ plan for 2017 would be to focus on Government agencies, as well as arresting the growing trend of corruption among youths.

Responding to questions on cuts to the MACC’s budget, he said it was an issue faced by all agencies, though the commission had appealed for more funding to carry out its plans.

“We can’t do everything at once because of (MACC’s) strength and budget. But my concern is also about how many of those arrested are under 40 years old,” said Shamshun Baharin, adding that 54% of those arrested (1,267 of 2,329 cases) were under 40.

He attributed the trend to the generation’s environment and wanting to take shortcuts, which MACC aimed to combat with the establishment of a corruption prevention secretariat in higher learning institutions.

During his keynote address at the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS) forum titled ‘Supporting the MACC in the fight against corruption’, Shamshun Baharin said 2016 had been a successful year for the commission.

He revealed that arrest numbers had gone up from 841 (2015) to 932 (2016), of which 258 suspects had been brought to court, as of Dec 15 last year.

At the event, IDEAS CEO Wan Saiful Wan Jan launched a signature drive under its #NyahKorupsi campaign, to support the MACC.

“Our goal is to have more Malaysians come out in support of the MACC because it has made more investigations and arrests of corrupt top officials. There may be a time when they will need our help,” he said.

He said IDEAS would collect as many signatures as possible before delivering it to MACC chief commissioner Datuk Dzulkifli Ahmad.

To sign the petition, visit http://www.change.org/p/sokong-sprm-perangi-rasuah.

The other forum panellist included Transparency International Malaysia president Datuk Akbar Satar, Centre to Combat Corruption and Cronyism executive director Cynthia Gabriel, Friends of Kota Damansara chairman Jeffrey Phang and Sinar Project co-founder Khairil Yusof. – By Qishin Tariq The Star/ANN

Just you wait, MACC boss warns corrupt politicians

MACC chief commissioner Datuk Dzulkifli Ahmad,

PETALING JAYA: The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) has warned corrupt politicians to “be careful”.

Its chief commissioner Datuk Dzulkifli Ahmad, in a live television interview yesterday, said he had previously stated that he would take action on anyone involved in corrupt practices, including “politicians of any rank”.

“On my 100th day as MACC chief, I said that I will not be stopped from taking action against politicians.

“Tonight, I would like to say to corrupt politicians, just you wait (tunggulah),” he said.

Dzulkifli added that the MACC was not worried about “protected individuals” who committed systemic corruption.

“There is no issue about them being protected, I can guarantee that all those who commit corruption will not be left alone. I will take action against them without fear or favour,” he added.

But Dzulkifli admitted that the MACC had its limitations in terms of logistics.

“There are only 2,900 members and officers in the whole of the MACC, of which only 900 carry out legal enforcement as others are in the prevention and education departments, among others.

“Now if you look at the civil service alone, there are 1.6 million of them, so that is one.

“Besides that, is budget, that has been cut, and it is at its lowest since 2013,” he said.

Dzulkifli, however, added that he would not allow the limitations to stop the anti-graft body from carrying out its duties.

The Astro Awani interview is Dzulkifl’s first ever live interview since his appointment in July last year.

Dzulkifli, a veteran in the civil service, was the head of the National Revenue Recovery Enforcement Team of the Attorney-General’s Chambers before being appointed chief commissioner.

He took over from Tan Sri Abu Kassim Mohamed, and his tenure is until July 31, 2021.

– By D. Kanyakumari The Star/ANN

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More senior govt officials held over corruption involving millions of ringgit


 

PETALING JAYA: Two senior government officials have been remanded in Malacca and Johor over separate cases of graft involving millions of ringgit.

In Malacca, a senior state government official with the title of Datuk was remanded for four days.

The 55-year-old was brought to the magistrate’s court by the Malaysian Anti- Corruption Commission (MACC) officers before the remand order was issued by assistant registrar Syarina Shaarani @ Tan.

On Monday in Putrajaya, MACC also detained and obtained a fiveday remand for a 70-year-old contractor with links to the Malacca senior official, who was believed to have solicited kickbacks in exchange of approval for projects.

It is learnt that MACC had frozen 22 bank accounts owned by the senior official and his family members amounting to RM11mil and 24 accounts belonging to the contractor totalling RM12mil.

MACC deputy chief commissioner (operations) Datuk Azam Baki confirmed the latest arrest, adding that the investigation would zoom in on the projects involving the two suspects.

In Johor Baru, an assistant officer with the Johor Land Office was remanded for six days by a magistrate’s court over abuse of power in a land acquisition case.

Clad in an MACC orange lock-up shirt, the suspect, in his 50s, was brought in under the escort of several officers at around 11am. The remand order was approved by assistant registrar Norhidayah Abdul Manaf.

MACC state director Datuk Simi Abdul Ghani told Bernama that it was in the process of identifying the source of the man’s assets.

The suspect, he said, was believed to have abused his position to obtain land through land offices in other districts as well as acquire these via ownership transfers.

Initial investigation revealed that the suspect owned several pieces of agricultural land as well as a few residential plots and luxury homes.

In another case, a director of a federal agency in Labuan was rearrested by MACC a day after his remand for a graft probe over a RM12mil food court in Tg Purun expired.

This time, the suspect, 59, was held over a probe into a building and infrastructure project worth RM48mil in Labuan.

Yesterday, Labuan magistrate’s court registrar Haizah Tamin granted a seven-day remand order against the director.

So far, MACC has recorded statements from 17 witnesses, including two civil servants and staff from several companies and contractors.

However, sources said no new arrests or seizure of assets and property had been made.

Graft investigators are still sifting through documents and other evidence to determine the number of contracts in the project since the director took over the helm about two years ago.

Two contractors, in their 40s, who were detained with the director earlier over the food court project, have been released.

The director is said to have asked for RM100,000 from the contractors as kickback for awarding them the project.

Confirming the re-arrest, Azam said the director was detained over an ongoing probe under Section 17(a) of the MACC Act for offering and receiving bribes.

So far, 12 bank accounts with cash amounting to RM889,000 belonging to the suspect and several family members have been frozen.

MACC is also tracing several million ringgit allegedly transferred out of the accounts shortly before the suspect was picked up.

Malacca Chief Minister Datuk Seri Idris Haron said MACC’s action against the state senior official reflected its government’s transparency.

There had been speculation that the officer was closely linked to certain key officials in the state, including himself, said Idris.

“Anyone can be seen to be close to me, but when it comes to corrupt practices, I will be the first to stand against it,” he said.

However, he urged people not to jump to any conclusion as the probe was still ongoing.

Senior officials held for alleged graft

 

PETALING JAYA: Two senior civil servants, one of whom is a Datuk, were detained by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) in Malacca and Johor for alleged corrupt practices.

Sources said the first suspect, aged 55, was picked up in downtown Malacca at about 2pm yesterday and is to be remanded today.

More than 20 bank accounts containing over RM10mil were frozen.

It is learnt that the suspect was soliciting kickbacks in exchange for approval of projects involving local authorities.

The sources said the MACC was currently determining the amount of money and number of projects involved.

More individuals are expected to be picked up to facilitate investigations.

In a separate case, an assistant land district officer was also picked up over alleged corruption.

The suspect, in his 50s, was detained when he appeared at the Johor MACC office to have his statement recorded at about 2pm yesterday.

Sources said the suspect was said to have misused his position to obtain land, including alleged illicit transfer of land ownership.

The case is being investigated under Section 23 of the MACC Act 2009.

Initial investigations showed the suspect owned several plots of agricultural land covering 6.77ha.

In addition, he is said to have acquired a 27.51ha piece of jointly-developed land, residential land and a high-cost luxury unit in seve­ral districts in Johor.

Johor MACC director Datuk Simi Abdul Ghani confirmed the arrest.

He said the suspect would be brought to the court for a remand order to detain him further as part of the probe.

Earlier this month, the MACC arrested two senior office bearers of two government-linked companies over suspected abuse of power and corruption.

Cash and other assets worth millions were seized and bank accounts frozen.

Last week, a federal agency director and two contractors were also detained.

The contractors had been released but the director was re-arrested to assist in a money-laundering probe.

By Simon Khoo The Star/Asian News Network

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