DAP supports investigations into propriety and authenticity of the over RM10,000 monthly MP travel claims but wants independent investigators with powers to investigate into claims abuses of Ministers and Deputy Ministers
by Lim Kit Siang
(Penang, Friday): On Wednesday, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Nor Omar said during parliamentary question-time that 14 Members of Parliament made travel claims exceeding RM10,000 a month last year while six MPs were paid over RM10,000 a month in travel claims up to June this year.
The 14 MPs last year were:
1. Mohd Apandi
Mohamad (PAS – Jeli) - 10 times
For the first six months of this year, the six MPs who have submitted over RM10,000 travel claims a month are:
1. Mohamad Apandi
Mohamad (PAS - Jeli) - 6 times
Noh said the total amount claimed by Apandi for the 10 months last year was a “whopping” RM132,000 while for the first half of this year, his monthly claims for six months amounted to RM78,356.96.
New Straits Times today carried a front-page story entitlted “Pas MP’s claims ‘exceeded those of rural reps’”, which among other things, quoted
Ø Parliament secretary Datuk Mohd Salleh Hassan as saying that the claims made by an Opposition MP in the peninsula were far more than those submitted by Government MPs who represent rural constituencies in Sabah and Sarawak;
Ø Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA) Director of Investigations, Datuk Nordin Ismail as saying that the ACA will investigate the “authenticity of the excessive claims made by several MPs” as “the ACA could initiate a probe based on newspaper reports”.
Although I have been an MP for 30 years from 1969 to 1999, it is news to me that MPs can make such excessive travel claims as to exceed RM10,000 a month which have nothing to do with parliamentary meetings, a practice which must have been introduced after the 1999 general election.
However, if MPs are allowed to make unlimited travel claims if invited to Federal, State and government agency functions, then it is unfair to target Opposition MPs when BN MPs have also made such claims, as out of the 16 MPs named by Nor as having submitted travel claims over RM10,000 a month, eight are from BN and 8 from Opposition - 5 PAS, 2 Keadilan and 1 DAP. The proper thing is to review the existing laws and regulations to determine whether it is right and proper to allow MPs to make such excessive travel claims – when the monies could be more profitably used to upgrade the quality of parliamentary debates by being used to appoint research assistants or pay for research services for each MP.
It is illogical to focus public attention on parliamentary travel claims of over RM10,000 a month, for two reasons:
Ø Firstly, it is completely arbitrary to say RM10,000 parliamentary travel claims a month to attend Federal, State and government agency functions are excessive – when a similar case could be made for travel claims lower than RM10,000 for functions which are quite meaningless and themselves a waste of public funds. The criteria should not be the amount but the purpose of the claims.
Ø Secondly, whether there is abuse of the travel claims and therefore corrupt practice is not determined by the total amount, as there could equally be abuses and corrupt practices in false claims below RM10,000 a month.
It is for this reason that the comment by the Parliament Secretary, zeroing in on a PAS MP and comparing him with Barisan MPs from Sabah and Sarawak, is most improper and violate his non-partisan role as the chief parliamentary administrative officer, raising questions about his professionalism, independence, impartiality and integrity.
The comments by the ACA Director of Investigations are also highly objectionable. Why is the ACA not prepared to investigate into travel claims by all MPs, but only interested in Opposition MPs, regardless of whether it exceeds RM10,000 a month or otherwise, to ascertain that there were no false and improper claims and therefore corrupt practices?
Nordin said the ACA could initiate a probe based on newspaper reports, but why is ACA only forthcoming to act on this basis with regard to newspaper reports concerning Opposition personalities but never affecting Barisan Nasional Ministers, Chief Ministers, Mentri-Mentri Besar and other leaders? A most glaring case is the allegations of multi-million ringgit abuses of power in the award of logging concessions in Pahang implicating UMNO leaders at both the Cabinet and Pahang state government levels.
DAP supports investigations into the propriety and authenticity of the over RM10,000 month mileage claims by Members of Parliament but wants independent investigators with powers to investigate into claims abuses not only by MPs below the RM10,000 monthly level, but also by Ministers, Deputy Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries.
DAP calls for the adoption of three measures to assure the Malaysian public that the government is not playing “party politics” with a serious issue of public integrity:
Ø Firstly, the government should make public the full list of the monthly travel claims made to every MP since the 1999 general election.
Ø Secondly, the government should announce all the various allowances which had been paid to each Cabinet Minister, Deputy Minister and Parliamentary Secretary since the 1999 general election.
Ø Thirdly, Parliament should by way of emergency motion in its current meeting, appoint an independent three-man inquiry, with one nominated by BN MPs, one nominated by Opposition MPs and a Chairman agreed by both BN and Opposition MPs, to investigate into the propriety and authenticity of the travel claims by MPs and the various allowances paid to Ministers, Deputy Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries since the 1999 general election.
* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman