Saturday, May 24, 2008

At the Selangor Assembly: Panel to probe Balkis, RM27m funds - NST

May 24, 2008 By Neville Spykerman and Halim Said

TWO issues will be referred to the state's Special Select Committee for Competence, Accountability and Transparency which will be established on Monday.

The committee will probe how RM27 million or 90 per cent of the annual allocations for the state's Barisan Nasional assemblymen in the previous administration was spent in the first two months of the year.

The second issue is the controversial dissolution of Balkis, a welfare and charity organisation set up by the wives of Selangor assemblymen and MPs.

Menteri Besar Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim, speaking at a press conference after the morning session of the legislative assembly yesterday, said the committee would be set up by way of a motion in the House on Monday. It will comprise both Pakatan Rakyat and BN assemblymen.

Yesterday, the New Straits Times reported that the committee would be empowered to call on civil servants to account for the decisions they had made and how public money was spent. The committee will hold public inquiries.

Abdul Khalid said he would leave it to the committee to determine the action to be taken against wrongdoers.

Earlier, Abdul Khalid told the assembly that three letters had been sent to the Registrar of Societies on April 11, April 23 and May 15 for clarification on the status of Balkis.

However, there had been no response, he added.

Abdul Khalid said this in reply to a question by Lau Weng San (DAP-Kampung Tunku) and Dr Shafie Abu Bakar (Pas-Bangi).

He said past office bearers of Balkis should explain why they transferred RM9.9 million to the Association of Wives of Ministers and Deputy Ministers (Bakti) because the money was obtained from state-owned companies.

"Balkis was supported by state-owned companies and the past office-bearers should explain why the money was transferred."

Abdul Khalid said between 2006 and 2007 Balkis received RM590,379 from the Selangor State Development Corp (PKNS) for the opening ceremony of Komplex Wawasan Balkis

The funds were also used for dinners and annual programmes while land was also allocated to the charity.

Last year, Kumpulan Darul Ehsan gave RM300,000 to the charity to run its activities.

He said the records showed that Kumpulan Darul Ehsan had donated RM670,000 to date.

Permodalan Negeri Selangor Bhd (PNSB) had given RM5.1 million over the years.

Abdul Khalid said contributors to charities were entitled to free copies of their annual financial reports, but Balkis had failed to furnish these to the donors.

He listed how Balkis had spent some of its funds.

In 2006, RM50,000 was spent on donation of beef in conjunction with Hari Raya Haji and another RM50,000 was used for the upkeep of orphans.

A sum of RM250,000 was spent on Balkis' welfare programmes and RM49,000 on souvenir programmes.

Last year, RM100,000 was spent on uniforms, RM30,000 on food for their sports activities and RM36,000 on souvenirs for VVIPs.

Abdul Khalid, replying to a question by Ng Swee Lim (DAP-Sekinchan) said RM29.5 million was allocated to BN assemblymen for small projects this year.

Ninety per cent of the money was spent before March.

Former executive council members were allocated RM600,000 while assemblymen received RM500,000.

Abdul Khalid said it was strange that the former speaker, who was not an assemblyman, was also allocated RM600,000 which he had used up.

He added that fresh funds had been allocated for the new assemblymen.

Form your own charity, Khir tells Pakatan Rakyat

PAKATAN Rakyat has been told to form its own charity instead on harping on the dissolution of Balkis, a welfare and charity organisation set up by the wives of Selangor assemblymen and members of parliament.

Opposition leader Datuk Seri Dr Mohd Khir Toyo said the Pakatan Rakyat state government should stop trying to find faults with their predecessors and move forward.

He said the establishment of a new charity would end the controversy and it could compete with Balkis.

Dr Mohd Khir was commenting on a move by the state government to refer the Balkis controversy to the state's Special Select Committee for Competency, Accountability and Transparency.

He said there was nothing wrong with the dissolution of Balkis which is under the purview of the Registrar of Societies and not the state government.

"It usually takes one month for a society to be dissolved."

Dr Mohd Khir said Pakatan Rakyat appeared to be on a fault-finding mission.

"I am afraid this will affect the economic growth of the state."

He said the state government should take those involved in wrongdoing to court instead of politicising the issue.

"It's a waste of time and they should change their attitude."

He reminded the Pakatan government that they were now the government and they should behave like it, adding that they must bring prosperity to the people.

Dr Mohd Khir said the allocation and distribution of RM500,000 to BN assemblymen for small projects was above board.

"Assemblymen had the discretion to distribute the annual allocations according to their own time frame."

He said it did not matter if the funds were distributed in 10 days or a year. Dr Mohd Khir said the former state government had to distribute the allocations quickly as many of the state assemblymen applied for speedy approvals.

"The important thing here is there was no hanky-panky."

Dr Mohd Khir said the allocations were not for the assemblymen's personal use but was distributed among non-governmental organisations, places of worship and schools.

"The state should not mislead the public by claiming the allocations have been used by the previous assemblymen for themselves."

Speaker lauds reps for good turnout

AS of yesterday, 31 assemblymen had taken part in the debate on the Sultan's address, setting a record for the highest number of participants.

Speaker Teng Chang Khim said of the 44 assemblymen, 22 from Pakatan Rakyat and nine from Barisan Nasional spoke.

"Excluding myself, the menteri besar and the state councillors, only 13 assemblymen have yet to take part.

"I believe, this is the highest number since the formation of the state assembly in 1959," he said.

Teng commended the high standards set by several new assemblymen, some of whom had brought up subjects that were well researched.

"Batu Caves' Amirudin Shari, Subang Jaya's Hannah Yeoh Tseow Suan and Hulu Klang's Saari Sungib have shown sterling performance."

Teng said he was pleasantly surprised by the professionalism shown by some of the opposition assemblymen.

Menteri Besar Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim said he was proud that almost all assemblymen gave their views and support and had represented their constituencies in the motion thanking the Sultan for his address in the first Pakatan Rakyat-led session.

On Ezam joining Umno, he said it was Ezam's decision to make.

"He is no longer a Parti Keadilan Rakyat member, so it is up to him to take the next step for his future. As somebody who knew him personally, I wish him all the best in his undertakings."

Abdul Khalid said the party could not stop him as he left PKR before the general election.

"PKR did extremely well in the general election, so we do not feel the loss of his contribution to the party," he said.

The state assembly will resume on Monday.

Council taken to task over approval for cemetery

TERATAI state assemblyman Lee Ying Ha is questioning the Ampang Jaya Municipal Council (MPAJ) for not informing residents when it earmarked a two hectare plot of land for a cemetery.

In her debate on the motion of thanks for the royal address, Lee said she was shocked when told by the council that there was no need to inform her, as the previous state assemblyman had already been notified.

Lee said the cemetery had been an issue in her constituency for years.

"The matter has been discussed with MPAJ in 2000 but to date no solution has been found.

"Why did MPAJ fail to study the development plan for the area and allocate the land for a cemetery near a housing scheme?"

Meanwhile, Ismail Sani (BN-Dusun Tua) was upset that flooding was still a major issue in his constituency.

"The state government must do something to prevent further flooding in my area. A lot of residents are affected," he said.

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