AUDITOR-GENERAL'S REPORT: It takes a brave stand even to allow the report to be reported as it was. But the government, commendably, had never interfered
HERE we go again, strange things happened to hard-earned taxpayers' money, some of which literally went down the drain.
Dead people still getting allowances? A clock costing RM3,810? Scanners at RM14,670 a piece? 156 handcuffs, 44 firearms, 29 cars, 26 walkie-talkies and 22 radios missing? 7,600 pairs of shoes that can't fit destroyed at a cost of RM600,000? RM2 billion spent on questionable security services at schools?
Missing guns, a clock that costs RM3,810 and 7,600 pairs of shoes that don’t fit are many of the abuses and wastage pointed out
in the Auditor-General’s Report. Yet, very little was learnt, if at all. Pic by Supian Ahmad
Comedy of errors? Or blatant disregard for other people's money. Or worse, business as usual for many.
The sad thing is many of the "mistakes" have been pointed out in previous reports. Yet, very little was learnt, if at all. The Auditor-General's Report released early this week was an eye-opener. No, it wasn't as dramatic as the last one, but it was still full of surprises.
Perhaps Malaysians expected some bombshells, some big names named or some spouses of someone highlighted. Detractors are quick to point out the obvious.
Opposition leaders had a field day pointing out the weaknesses. The social media is alive with jokes, banters and cynicism, some uncalled for, others making fun of the affair with style and finesse.
Perhaps the true intention of the report -- to highlight the weaknesses and improve on them -- was lost amidst the noise. It is also a learning curve so as to ensure the ultimate aim is to give a clean bill of health to government ministries, departments, agencies and companies.
Firstly, let's commend Tan Sri Ambrin Buang and his people for the report. No fear or favour.
They said it as it were -- no sweeping anything under the carpet.
Ambrin's audacity is legendary. There are those who will chastise him for telling the chilling truth.
In fact, there are some who blamed him for giving ammunition "to the other side" year after year since he became the Auditor-General.
But whoever you are and on whichever side of the political divide you are, you can't fault him for his integrity.
We want many more like him. Secondly, let's not forget that the government is taking a beating on this one. It takes a brave stand even to allow the report to be reported as it was. It is not a pleasant thing to hear dirty linen being washed in public. But the government, commendably, had never interfered.
The Auditor-General had the upper-hand, even if the reports made the government look bad. But the prime minister is committed to make amends.
It is part of his government's pledge to walk the talk on transparency and integrity.
It is, in fact part, of the overall transformation plan to put people first and performance now, a mantra that defines his administration.
The Chief Secretary to the Government, too, is committed to move on with the times, preparing the civil service with the challenges of the day and the future and to provide rakyat-friendly services, ensuring a better delivery system, weeding bad hats and eliminating possibilities of corruption and abuse of power. Thirdly, the report should not be read as a testament of bad judgment calls or decision making but as a manifestation of the government's readiness to listen and to transform.
True, there were mistakes that have been repeated over many years. We cannot have the same report with the same suggestions next year. This is not about repeating an old song. It is simply about learning from mistakes and stopping the wastage.
Issues on works or supplies not meeting standards and specifications, unexplainable delays, weaknesses in management of projects and assets and wastage of public funds are not acceptable.
The Consultative and Prevention Panel (better known by its Malay acronym PPPR) of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, which I headed, made a media statement yesterday commending the Auditor-General on the report. The panel insisted that the Chief Secretary set up a working committee to study the weaknesses pointed out by the report.
The panel believes loopholes within the system will allow abuse of power, mismanagement of funds and downright corruption.
We believe strongly that this is a wake-up call for action
Johan Jaaffar | firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter:@Johan_Jaaffar New Straits Times Columnist 05/10/2013