Statement by Puspakom chief that Puspakom would take allegations of corruption against the centre "lightly" most shocking and unbelievable


Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang
(Petaling Jaya, Wednesday):
The statement by Puspakom chief executive officer, Salamat Wahit that the countryís privatised computerised vehicle inspection centre would take allegations of corruption against it "lightly" as there was no proof of such allegations (Sun 16th July 1997) is most shocking and unbelievable.

Salamat said in Butterworth yesterday that Puspakom had called on those who have alleged corrupt practice against its officers manning its vehicle inspection centres to step forward with proof but so far no one had provided Puspakom with details on the alleged graft.

He said he had met 22 out of 71 associations after the allegations were revealed by the Transport Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Ling Liong Sik in April, but none could back their claims. He said as there was no proof on the demoralising allegations, Puspakom would take the matter lightly.

It is most surprising that Puspakom chief executive officer could issue a clean bill of health for his own centre, when such a clean bill of health could only be credibly issued by an external investigating agency, like the Anti-Corruption Agency for example.

It is intriguing why the Transport Minister, Datuk Ser Dr. Ling Liong Sik did not call in the ACA to investigate allegations of corruption against Puspakom officials after he chaired a three-hour dialogue with representatives from the Malaysian Bus Operators Association in his office on 4th April and received allegations that for an undisclosed sum of money, buses deemed to be not roadworthy could be passed by Puspakomís employees. Instead, Liong Sik asked the Road Transport Department to conduct investigations into these allegations - an action which could not inspire much public confidence about the Ministerís seriousness in wanting to root out corrupt practices.

The press have also reported about allegations that officers from certain Puspakom centres demanded money from vehicle owners to expedite the approval of vehicles sent for checks and complaints by the public that they had to bring their vehicles several times to the centres but were yet unable to get approval because they did not pay the officers.

Has the Transport Minister given his blessing and approval to the Puspakom chief executive officer to issue a clean bill of health for Puspakom and to henceforth take all allegations of corruption against Puspakom officials "lightly"?

The Transport Ministry must show a more serious attitude towards allegations of corrupt practices under its jurisdiction, and I call on Liong Sik not to allow allegations of corruption against Puspakom to be dismissed so lightly.

There can be two reasons why no one has come forward to give to Puspakom the proof of corrupt practice against Puspakom officials.

Firstly, that Puspakom is indeed spotlessly clean and can rank to be the cleanest centre in the country without a single case of corrupt practice.

Alternatively, it could simply be that the public have no confidence that their complaints about corrupt practices in Puspakom would be taken seriously or that they would not be victimised in the end.

If it is the former, then there should not be a widespread public perception about corrupt practice in Puspakom. This seems to leave the second alternative as the more probable reason.

The critical question is what assurances the Transport Minister could give to the public that when they come forward to give proof about corrupt practices in Puspakom, their complaints would be taken seriously with the full force of the law thrown at the officials concerned; and even more important, that they would not be blacklisted and be victimised Puspakom?

If theTransport Minister can give these two assurances, I have no doubt that there would be no shortage of people coming forward with their allegations and proof about corrupt practices in Puspakom.

In Parliament on Monday, in answer to my question, the Deputy Minister in the Prime Ministerís Department, Datuk Nazri Aziz said all government departments have been directed to set up their own integrity, quality and productivity committees to check corruption and are required to report back every three months to the Cabinetís Special Committee on Government Management.

What is the use of such a directive to government departments to set up their own integrity committees to check corruption and to give quarterly reports when Puspakom can issue a clean bill of health for itself by dismissing all allegations of corruption against Puspakom - when public perception about corrupt practices in Puspakom have remained as serious as ever?

(16/7/97)


*Lim Kit Siang - Malaysian Parliamentary Opposition Leader, Democratic Action Party Secretary-General & Member of Parliament for Tanjong