Tuesday, May 27, 2008

At the Selangor Assembly: Committee to question Khir - NST

May 27, 2008 By Neville Spykerman and V. Shankar Ganesh

DATUK Seri Dr Mohd Khir Toyo will be called before the Special Select Committee for Competency Transparency and Accountability when it investigates the Wives of Selangor Assemblymen and MPs Welfare and Charity Organisation (Balkis).

State Islamic Affairs, Malay Customs, Infrastructure and Public Amenities Committee chairman Datuk Dr Hassan Ali said: "It will be an opportunity for him to clear the air because he has staunchly defended the controversial decision to dissolve the charity and transfer its funds."

The select committee was established by a motion at the state assembly yesterday.

It will be headed by speaker Teng Chang Khim (DAP-Sungai Pinang). Its members include deputy speaker Haniza Mohamed Talha (PKR-Taman Medan), Mohamed Azmin Ali (PKR-Bukit Antarabangsa), Saari Sungib (Pas-Hulu Langat), Edward Lee (DAP-Bukit Gasing), Sulaiman Abdul Razak (BN-Kawasan Permatang) and Ismail Sani (BN-Dusun Tua).

The select committee will be empowered to summon officials from the state government, state-linked companies and assemblymen to scrutinise maladministration.

During his winding-up speech in the assembly, Dr Hassan said the state government would no longer encourage the preaching of Islam Hadhari in mosques, surau and state religious schools.

Dr Hassan said the move was not to antagonise the federal government but "we believe Islam is perfect and there is no need for Islam Hadhari".

Meanwhile, all Pakatan Rayat states will move towards forming a tourism corridor since the Tourism Ministry has dissolved agreements with the five Tourism Action Councils.

State Tourism, Consumer Affairs and Environment Committee chairman Elizabeth Wong said the states were launching the initiative so that the tourism sector would not be adversely affected by the actions of the federal ministry.

She said the Selangor Tourism Action Committee, formed to facilitate tourism activities, had received instructions not to co-operate with the state government.

As a result, all tourism events could not be carried out because funding had been withdrawn by the federal government.

Wong said there had been a move to freeze state tourism projects under the Ninth Malaysia Plan.

"The Tourism Ministry has instructed that all projects in which the contractors had not been appointed before May 5 are to be put on hold."

Wong said the federal government should be more sensitive because the projects would have benefited the nation as a whole and its action could affect Malaysia's image as a tourist destination.

She said 10 tourism projects under 9MP worth RM25.5 million could be affected, but the state still hoped to attract 5.4 million tourists this year.

State to take over water treatment, supply firms

THE state government will take over all four companies involved in the treatment and distribution of water in Selangor.

Menteri Besar Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim said the takeover would be carried out through its wholly-owned company, Kumpulan Darul Ehsan Bhd, with the move to be finalised by September.

The companies involved are Puncak Niaga Sdn Bhd, Syarikat Bekalan Air Selangor (Syabas), Konsortium Abass Sdn Bhd and Syarikat Pengeluar Air Sungai Selangor Sdn Bhd (Splash).

All are involved in the treatment of raw water, with Syabas also handling water distribution in the Klang Valley.

Puncak Niaga's subsidiary, Syabas, has the concession to distribute water in Selangor and also owns 29 water treatment plants.

Konsortium Abass has the concession to operate and maintain the Sungai Semenyih Water Supply Scheme while Splash is the concessionaire of the Sungai Selangor Water Supply Scheme phase 1 and 3.

With this move, Abdul Khalid said the state would have a free hand to review all concessionaire agreements, which he had described as lopsided.

Abdul Khalid said KDEB would acquire all the shares of these companies, adding that the cabinet had given the nod for the deal in January.

He said the Energy, Water and Communications Ministry had issued a letter to the state government on Feb 5 giving the approval.

He said though it was the previous government that initiated the move, it was more for economic restructuring.

The scheme to provide free water for the first 20 cubic metres was included in the reorganisation scheme.

Abdul Khalid said he would meet with ministry officials to find an amicable evaluation for the restructuring exercise.

Asked how much the takeover will cost he said: "It will cost money to buy. But it is viable in returns to KDEB. It will not be to the extent that the risks and returns are not acceptable to the people."

Abdul Khalid said KDEB had shares in some of these groups. In the takeover, it would offer cash or shares for acquisition of rights in the companies.

He said it would also be done through purchase of assets and offers of long-term financial facilities at certain rates.

He said Selangor would study the terms of the companies' agreements and their financial models. "We will ensure the benefits flow back to the people."

Asked what would happen if the concessionaires refused to sell the companies, he said they would if the price was right.

"Even if they refuse, they will have to eventually as the water belongs to the state."

'Lopsided' concessions to be reviewed

PARKING, advertising and garbage collection concessions may be up for grabs soon with the state government's decision to review all agreements.

State Local Government Committee chairman Ronnie Liu said yesterday the reviews were necessary as they were grossly unfair to the state government and people, adding that the agreements were lopsided in favour of the concessionaires.

He cited the example of Alam Flora operations, which had been criticised by various people.

"Based on the complaints and also due to the large allocation of funds for this, the state is now looking at the possibility of terminating the contract and setting up a Selangor waste management board. The proposal will be tabled when we complete our studies."

Met later, he said he was unhappy with the standard of service offered by Alam Flora and would discuss the matter with state subsidiary Worldwide Holdings Bhd, which operates landfills.

On parking, he said local authorities had signed long-term contracts with two companies, Suasa Efektif Sdn Bhd (25 years) and Godell Parking Sdn Bhd (20 years).

Liu said the concessionaires received 70 per cent of the profit from all fees and summonses collected.

"It does not make sense how such a contract could have been signed," he said, given that local authorities did all the work collecting summonses but the companies got the lion's share of the collection.

He said the companies had been summoned to explain their operations.

Also, Liu did not understand why parking was privatised as it brought much revenue to the local councils.

On advertising, he said up to 80 per cent of billboards in the state were illegal.

"With each billboard advertising costing between RM2,000 and RM10,000 a month, the state is losing millions in revenue."

He has asked local authorities, especially the Petaling Jaya City Council and Subang Jaya Municipal Council, to provide actual figures and details of billboard owners.

Liu said the previous state government had signed a contract with Karisma Vista Sdn Bhd to put up signboards and Mesra Rakyat advertisements for assemblymen.

He said the contract spelt out that each assemblyman would be given three billboards and the company would get six for commercial purposes.

He said the current state executive council had decided that each assemblyman would get only one billboard and the remaining two would go to local councils for commercial purposes.

Karisma's contract, which expires in December, would not be renewed, he added.

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