However, Daim has not been able to explain why he had not signed and gazetted the Ministerial order reducing the employees' EPF contribution by two per cent from 11% to 9% with effect from 1st April 2001 in the past one month despite its announcement by the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad in the RM3 billion economic stimulus package on March 27.
Is Daim's failure to sign and gazette the Ministerial order on the two per cent cut in employees' EPF contribution before March 31 so that it could lawfully come into effect on April 1 the result of Ministerial incompetence or Ministerial protest?
Daim's claim that he had to take two months' leave to spend more time to clear files on development projects, or the economy would not move if the files were not cleared, raises many questions.
One question is why there was no need for any Finance Minister in the past, including Daim himself, to take "two-month leave" to clear the backlog of files on development projects, even when the country was in the darkest days of the 1987 Asian economic crisis?
When asked by reporters in Parliament on Monday why he was taking "leave" when the economy was not doing well, Daim had retorted that "It's just a slowdown". Precisely, why was there such backlog of files on development projects that the Finance Minister must take "leave" to clear them when there is "just a slowdown" when there was no such need when the country went through the trauma of suffering a negative growth of -7.5%!
Daim's "leave" as Finance Minister is one of the most extraordinary episodes of the 20-year Mahathir government, and up to now, nobody knows when Daim's "leave" actually started. Nobody dares to say anything for the simple reason that nobody knows!
What Malaysians are concerned however is that Daim should not attempt to escape Ministerial accountability for the numerous financial irregularities and scandals that had seriously affected investor confidence, in particular the misuse of public funds in government-linked agencies like the Employees' Provident Fund, the Pensions Trust Fund and Khazanah in the bail-outs and buy-outs of troubled crony companies.
Parliament had met for 23 days since 19th March but Daim had appeared only once in Parliament on March 21 to give a most unsatisfactory reply during question time on the government’s RM1.792 billion buy-back and bailout of Tan Sri Tajudin Ramli's 29.09 per cent stake in MAS, leaving to his deputy ministers and parliamentary secretary to give even more unsatisfactory answers about the other financial irregularities and scandals like the irresponsible involvement of EPF and Pensions Trust Fund in the Time dotCom IPO fiasco.
Daim did not even bother to appear in Parliament to reply to issues raised during the debate on the Third Outline Perspective Plan 2001-2010 pertaining to his Ministry, although the Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi regarded the OPP3 serious and important enough to personally wind up the debate on the government's behalf.
Daim should explain whether his mysterious "two-month leave" includes "leave" from parliamentary accountability and responsibility.
As Daim had not sought official "leave of absence" from Parliament, he should appear in Parliament next Wednesday to personally answer as Finance Minister to the numerous financial irregularities and scandals which Barisan Alternative MPs had raised in the Eighth Malaysia Plan debate and in the past six weeks to show that his “leave” is not an evasion of Ministerial responsibility and accountability.
It would be a parliamentary scandal indeed if MPs do not know whether Daim is on "leave" from Parliament or not, and whether they could insist that he should personally appear in Parliament to account for the various recent financial irregularities and scandals.