All-party financial watchdog committee

Talk by DAP Organising Secretary, Mr Lim Kit Siang, to members of the Ipoh DAP Branch on Sunday, June 16 at 10 a.m.

A fortnight ago, the Minister of Finance, Tun Tan Siew Sin, warned Malaysians to concentrate on essentials and to be “more utilitarian” as “cash is running out with the time” in Malaysia.

The person who should take most heed of this warning is none other Tun Tan Siew Sin himself. For cash ran out during Tun Tan Siew Sin’s tenure as Minister of Finance. As a result, Tun Tan introduced Malaysia into the era of deficit financing, piling up loans – a policy which mortgaged the future generations to pay for the present.

Malaysia would not today face her most serious financial crisis if Alliance leaders had the foresight and intelligence to cut out all wasteful projects ever since they came into office after Independence.

However, instead of building functional and utilitarian buildings, Alliance leaders embarked on an extravagant programme of building “marble palaces” for tourists to gape in wonder and amazement, like the Parliament House, the Subang International Airport, the National Mosque, the Angkasapuri (the TV complex) and the National Monument.

Can the Alliance leaders, who were the ones who frittered away the nation’s riches and prosperity and landed Malaysia in the red, tide the country over her financial crisis?

Can the Alliance reform its mentality of waste and extravagance, and replace it with an attitude of austerity and thrift?

In all sincerity, the Alliance leaders do not give ground for confidence that they are capable of the qualities of self-correction and self-discipline to break away from their habits of waste and extravagance.

Ministers, government officials and State Assemblymen are still orbiting the globe at tax-payers’ expense. Mosques, temples and other religious buildings continue to spring up all over the country. Public funds continue to be spent on golf courses which benefit only a small elite. Apart from government statements and speeches, waste in government administration seems as rampant.

I just wish to mention one instance to illustrate government waste, of red-tapism and bureaucracy run mad.

During the Indonesian Confrontation, a Manpower and national Service Department was set up to register Malaysians within a particular age group, and to control their foreign trips in the form of exit permits.

Indonesian Confrontation has ended for two years, but the Manpower Office still requires exit permits. I know of instances where Malaysians received three reminders from the Manpower Department to return their exit permits to the Department after their trips, in exchange for their national service cards.

When these Malaysians did not reply, the Manpower Department just mailed the national service cards to them.

The need for which the Manpower Department was established is no more present. But the machinery still grinds on, wasting public money, time and energy.

A watchdog is necessary to check government financial waste and extravagance.

Such a job should properly be done by the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee. However, the Public Accounts Committee in Malaysia is mostly packed by yes-men from the Alliance, who are completely ineffective.

A test of effectiveness of the Public Accounts Committee is to ask question: What has the Public Accounts Committee done so far to cut down government waste and extravagance? The answer is “nothing”.

The best way to check government waste and extravagance is to appoint an all-party financial watchdog committee, with powers to query every government financial transaction.

Alliance leaders would not welcome such a suggestion, but they must remember that the money they are spending are not their own, but the people’s money. The public have a right therefore, to have a committee which will ensure that every cent is properly spent and accounted for, and that all prestigious, unproductive and wasteful projects are cancelled.

If the Alliance government is keen on enlisting public support to concentrate on the essentials and to be more utilitarian in public expenditure, then it should support the formation of an all-party financial watchdog committee.

If the government opposes such a concept, then it is proof that it is not prepared to subject its expenditure of public funds to open scrutiny, examination and debate.

Audited on 2021-03-19