Yesterday, in reply to the DAP MP for Tanjong, Chow Kon Yeow in Parliament during question time, Ong could even deny that the IWK sewerage privatisation is a failure.
Ong said that the sewerage services by IWK were not affected as the government takeover exercise only involved a change in the equity and ownership of the company.
Ong is not being frank, sincere or truthful. If the IWK privatisation has not failed, why it it necessary for the government to bail out the IWK with a RM200 million "golden handshake" to the concessionaire at the taxpayers’ expense?
The Finance Minister, Tun Daim Zainuddin, said last Friday after the retabling of the 2000 Budget that the government had "paid and we have signed the agreement" for the takover of the IWK sewerage privatisation project.
Is Ong privy to information about the government takeover and "golden handshake" to the sewerage privatisation concessionaire, which has already been paid?
It does not speak highly for the government’s commitment to accountability and transparency that it is not prepared to give a full report about its take-over of the IWK sewerage services, including details of the reportedly RM200 million "golden handshake" at the taxpayers’ expense.
Ong would have been guilty of not being fully frank with Parliament yesterday for not providing this information, unless he really does not know about the actual figure of the "golden handshake", being excluded from the loop of decision-making process although he is the Minister directly responsible for the sewerage services.
Be that as it may, now that the government has taken over the IWK sewerage services, the first thing it must do is to implement the National Economic Recovery Plan (NERP) of the National Economic Action Council (NEAC) which made the following recommendation in August 1998:
"Local Authorities need to give a rebate on sewerage costs to consumers from assessment rates once IWK takes over the services. Customers do not want to pay twice for the same service." (Chapter 7 of NERP - Revitaling Affected Sectors).
The government should suspend all IWK charges for consumers and implement the NEAC recommendation that local authorties give rebate on sewerage costs by billing the local authorities directly on behalf of the consumers.
By charging the local authorities directly for the IWK bills for the consumers, there would be no need for the local authorities to give a rebate on sewerage costs to consumers from assessment rates as recommended by the NERP, avoiding the unacceptable situation of the consumers having to pay twice for the same service.