Datuk Amar Speaker,
Thank you for giving me this opportunity to participate in the debate of the Supply Bill 2015 Bill 2014 tabled by the Right Honourable Chief Minister in this Honourable Dewan on 10 November 2014.
I must congratulate YAB and his cabinet colleagues for a budget that has surpassed the RM5 billion mark for the first time, the impressive revised revenue collection this year and sustained high growth projection for the next year.
I am particularly moved and motivated by honourable Chief Minister’s nagging reminder highlighted in many parts of the budget speech that the state needs to be disciplined and prudent in our financial management, that there is greater responsibility for all members of this august House to be more vigilant in upholding the highest standards of prudent financial and resource management; ensuring transparency, accountability, good governance and integrity of the state. And YAB repeated adviced that all ministries, Departments, statutory bodies and local authorities must ensure financial compliance to improve work practices and to enable the state to achieve a higher level of integrity, credibility and accountability in the public service.
It is opportune that the 3rd Series of the Auditor-General’s Report for the year 2013 was released and tabled in Parliament on the same day this Supply Bill 2015 Bill 2014 was tabled in this Honourable Dewan.
Customarily, the Auditor-General’s Department would point out an aspect of each particular ministry, department and agency’s performance and pronounced it as satisfactory, before it points out the shortcomings which are unsatisfactory, or at times devastating.
3rd Series Auditor-General’s Report 2013
Lack of study, poor follow up and weak maintenance were among the several weaknesses persisting in Sarawak's ministries, departments and agencies as highlighted in the Auditor General Report Series 3.
Among those audited include the Department of Irrigation and Drainage, whereby the AG Report commented that project implementation was not satisfactory due to poor project management under flood mitigation plan (FMP), rural roads (RR) and Sarawak's irrigation scheme (SIS).
This led to two projects not achieving its objectives, consequentially increasing project costs by RM4.42 million or 57.8% of the original contract costs due to re-tender.
The report pointed out that detailed preliminary study was not performed thoroughly though the most critical problem on land condition has been identified during the soil investigation by the consultant resulted in the methods used for two FMP projects were inappropriate.
There were also weaknesses in the implementation and monitoring of two RR projects, one SIS project and two FMP projects.
The original purpose of dredging with an expenditure of RM10.25 million at the confluence of Batang Rajang near Kerto Island, Sibu Division to address the flood problem was not achieved because dredging was ineffective.
Further, the initial objective to make Sebalak River Rice Irrigation Scheme, Betong as the rice bowl costing RM70.76 million has yet to realise because the area is not gazetted.
Another department coming under the microscope was the Ministry of Rural Development of Sarawak, whereby issues such as delays in implementation, lack of response from the people brought about by locality issues as well as poor facilities maintenance were highlighted.
It was concerned that the Impact studies on Rural Growth Centre (RGC) development programmes -- to evaluate the achievement and success of the State Government’s efforts -- was not carried out yet even though the implementing period has reached 18 years.
It was also found that a project that is still in the process of implementation has been delayed for more than four years.
Further, the usage and maintenance of public facilities in six out of eight RGC visited need to be improved, while two of them -- that is RGC Semop and Opar -- still saw no public facilities being constructed yet.
And the Honourable Minister certainly must answer an important allegation in the AG’s Report that the allocation received for the development of RGC from the 6th to 10th Malaysia Plan totaled RM385.86 million and the actual expenditure as of May 2014 amounting to RM223.79 million.
Sarawak's Investment in Sago Plantation Project undertaken by Land Custody And Development Authority since 1987 with a target to develop 250,000 hectares of sago plantation by year 2020 also performed unsatisfactorily because “the objectives have yet to be achieved after 26 years of implementation”.
Until end of 2013, an allocation amounting to RM266.81 million has been received from the State Government for sago plantation project in Mukah Division. From 2011 to 2013, allocation totalling RM93.21 million has been received and RM32.76 million was spent.
The AG Report pointed out that the intensive study was conducted only after the rehabilitation programme failed, and the research findings have yet to be used to improve the performance of sago plantation.
The State Government loans to the company was still unpaid, and the purchase of excavators have exceeded the requirements.
The Ministry of Infrastructure Development and Communication has also exceeded allocations for expenses as the bridge construction target based on priority and duration was not prepared.
Looking at implementation performance for Phase 1 until Phase 3 as at the end of 2013, only 138 or 41.8 per cent of the bridges has been built compared to the targeted 330 bridges until 2017.
Project financial management was weak which involved deferred payment method for contract that resulted in an increase of financial charges, project expenditure exceeding annual allocations and late payment of claims.
It is also to be noted that, although the state government received a satisfactory remark in the AG Report for year 2013, there were still some shortcomings to be overcome.
The operating expenditure, recoverable loan balance arrears and public debt are under scrutiny of the AG.
The State Government Operating Expenditure shows an increase of RM417.91 million or 9 percent that is from RM4.62 billion in year 2012 to RM5.03 billion in year 2013.
The Recoverable Loan Balance registered an increase of RM66.31 million or 2.8 percent from RM2.41 billion in year 2012 to RM2.47 billion in year 2013.
The arrears of outstanding payment of Recoverable Loan also increases by RM72.80 million or 12 percent from RM611.20 million in year 2012 to RM684 million in year 2013. The total amount of investment increases to RM27.58 billion in year 2013.
The total amount of public debt increased by RM30.04 million or 1.3 percent to RM2.27 billion against RM2.24 billion in year 2012, while the arrears in public debt for year 2013 is RM2.28 million.
At paragraph 9 of YAB’s budget speech, the honourable Chief Minister had revealed that the state government will place greater priority on rural development by providing key infrastructures such as major road connections, clean water and electricity supplies and other basic amenities for the rural areas.
Indeed, 71% of the proposed budget is for development purposes and 50% of the development allocation is for the implementation of programmes and projects in the rural areas. (referring to paragraph 68 of the budget speech)
Once again, it is a test to our state ministries, Departments, statutory bodies and local authorities, particularly those involved in the implementation of programmes and projects in the rural areas, to ensure financial compliance to improve work practices, higher level of integrity, credibility and accountability in the delivery of such programmes and projects.
PIA and PIAS projects
The following are some important data from the Prime Minister’s Department as of the end of October this year, noting the dismay implementation of projects granted under the PM’s Department this year.
The figures have shown that an allocation of RM102.45 million has been approved and granted to implement 1,248 Public Infrastructure Project (PIA) and Basic Infrastructure Project (PIAS) projects for 2014.
However, up until the end of October 2014, only 20 per cent of the allocation or RM20.97 million has been spent.
Further, out of the 1,248 approved PIA and PIAS projects, which include the building of roads and bridges, and provision of basic amenities to the rural communities, 17 of them are still in the BQ stage, meaning the stage of preparing documentation.
As noted from the records, the chief implementation agencies of these projects are the local district offices.
The Chief Minister’s Office should have been briefed about this extremely unsatisfactory performance by the local district offices statewide.
With one and a half month to go before we bid farewell to 2014, I would be most grateful if the Right Honourable Chief Minister or the Honourable Minister of Local Government and Community Development may enlighten this august House on the mechanisms that are put in place to ensure that the RM85 million worth of such PIA and PIAS projects are to be carried out before the end of the year.
We certainly don’t want to be accused by the Federal government that they have indeed made special grants for largely rural development to Sarawak, but it is due to our own shortcomings and inability to implement such projects approved and grants allocated that the rural communities remain deprived and suffering from the lack of basic infrastructural development and amenities.
Further, the records have also revealed the poor performance of implementation of basic infrastructure projects under the “Projek Mesra Rakyat”(PMR) programme initiated by the Prime Minister.
Under the PMR programme, each Parliamentary constituency is given RM5 million for 2014 to implement basic infrastructure projects.
For 2014, the total number for PMR projects approved in all allocated Parliamentary constituencies nationwide was 2,031 and the grants approved was RM115.24 million.
Out of the 2,031 projects which are recommended by the members of parliament and supposedly to be implemented by the district offices, only 14 per cent or 280 projects worth RM14.56 million have been completed and 70 projects worth RM4.25 million (3.45 per cent) are in the various stage of implementation.
1,681 PMR projects which amount to almost 83 per cent of the approved projects with a total value of RM96.74 million have not begun implementation!
How many of these uncompleted and non-implemented PMR projects are in Sarawak?
The Honourable chief Minister has in his budget speech, at paragraph 82, highlighted the cordial relationship with the federal government and his belief that the federal government would continue to support the state with more funding in the development of basic infrastructural facilities and amenities particularly in the rural areas.
The federal government will say that indeed they have given us the funding and grants but it is our failure to utilise the grants and implement the projects for the good of the rural communities.
I must therefore echo the good advice of our Right Honourable Chief Minister, at Paragraph 84 of his budget speech, that “There is even greater responsibility for us to be more vigilant in upholding the highest standards of prudent financial and resource management; ensuring transparency, accountability, good governance and integrity …”
But such esteem ideals and principles ring empty if they are not put to practice.
We must put in place a mechanism to ensure that we can achieve such responsibility to be more vigilant in upholding the highest standards of prudent financial and resource management; ensuring transparency, accountability, good governance and integrity.
By that, Datuk Amar Speaker,
I must reiterate my humble suggestion made last year, that we reexamined the roles of our Honourable members of the House hoping that our noble Dewan advances and progress to thereby perform a more dynamic and functional role in the governing of our beloved State and, at the same time, preserve and uphold our proud record as the preeminent state assembly in Malaysia.
Last year, I have proposed that this Dewan initiates its own reform and transformation in line with our remuneration adjustment, highlighting that it has raised expectations of the general electorates towards the performance of our elected members.
Since then, other state assemblies in the country have followed our lead and have similarly adjusted the allowance for their honourable members, but we remain the highest paid legislators in Malaysia.
And we have just passed the Dewan Undangan Negeri (Composition of Membership) Bill 2014 to increase our membership from 71 to 82.
I believe and I know that many of my honourable colleagues here are agreeable with me that we can contribute much more to this Honourable Dewan, besides serving our respective constituents and meet in this majestic Dewan for 16 days in a year.
I must therefore re-submit my respectful proposal that this Honourable Dewan examine and consider the setting up of State Assembly Select Committee similar to the UK Commons Select Committee for each government department, to monitor examine and supervise their spending, policies and administration.
Datuk Amar Speaker,
After India had initiated its parliamentary reform in 1919, most countries which are practicing the Westminster democracy have initiated and implemented parliamentary reforms to address the inherent problems which are aimed at restoring the independence of their country’s legislative arm of government.
In the context of our State and the Honourable Dewan Undangan Negeri, we do realize that the business of government is heavy and wide-ranging today, and we cannot expect all our State Assembly members to be informed about every issue that is affecting the State. In my humble opinion, learning the lessons from the other parliamentary legislative assemblies, our Honourable Dewan can make constructive and effectual recommendations on how the governance and government can be improved.
I verily believe that the working of these select committee is the answer to the needed mechanism to ensure that the state will be disciplined and prudent in our financial management, that with all the members in this august House taking and sharing the greater responsibility, the government and the state will be more vigilant in upholding the highest standards of prudent financial and resource management; ensuring transparency, accountability, good governance and integrity of the state. With such select committees in place, all ministries, departments, statutory bodies and local authorities will ensure financial compliance to improve work practices and to enable the state to achieve a higher level of integrity, credibility and accountability in the public service.
With a new Chief Minister who has repeatedly reminded us that it doesn’t matter whether we are in the ruling camp or in the opposition, but we are all Sarawakians and working for the cause of Sarawak, I certainly hope that the new administration will herald the necessary structural and institutional reforms for the betterment of Sarawak.
With that, I conclude.
See Chee How
N11 Batu Lintang