Parliament has become a laughing-stock in the country as a result of Nor Omar’s allegations of excessive “non-meeting” parliamentary claims by MPs, and unless satisfactory and immediate action is taken to root out all such abuses, whether government or opposition, the credibility and integrity of Parliament have suffered a grievous and irreparable blow
by Lim Kit Siang
(Petaling Jaya, Monday): Parliament has become a laughing-stock in the country as a result of the allegation of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Nor Omar last Wednesday of excessive “non-meeting” parliamentary claims by Members of Parliament, and unless satisfactory and immediate action is taken to root out all such abuses by MPs, whether government or opposition, the credibility and integrity of Parliament have suffered a grievous and irreparable blow.
Yesterday, Kelantan UMNO Youth lodged two separate police reports against the PAS MP for Jeli, Mohd Apandi Mohamad who had been specially named by Nor as the “champion” of excessive parliamentary claims of over RM10,000 a month for 10 out of 12 months last year, and every month for the first half of this year – chalking up RM132,000 for the ten months last year and RM78,356.96 for the first six months of this year.
The question of excessive and abuses of “non-meeting” parliamentary claims by Members of Parliament is a serious issue, which concerns the credibility and integrity of Parliament and must transcend party politics and individuals MPs, and should never become a “political football” by political parties to kick around to score political points.
There is no business for the Kelantan UMNO Youth to lodge police reports against Apandi, for two reasons:
Omar Nor had done Parliament and all MPs, whether ruling or opposition, a grave disservice in his reckless “expose” of excessive parliamentary claims just to target the PAS MP for Jeli, without making a clear distinction between “meeting” and “non-meeting” parliamentary claims, thereby subjecting all MPs to public suspicion, ridicule, odium and contempt for being far from honest and scrupulous in the highest political and legislative chamber in the land.
When Parliament is in session, MPs are entitled to submit “meeting” claims which include hotel or accommodation, meeting, living, mileage and other allowances according to the parliamentary regulations.
Let us use as an illustration the budget meeting last October, when Parliament met for 19 days in a five- week stretch.
Every MP, whether from Peninsular Malaysia, Sabah or Sarawak who recorded full attendance, would be entitled to the following “meeting” claims:
(1) meeting allowance @ RM150 a day - RM150 x 19 = 2,850
(2) Hotel allowance @ RM 230 a day – RM230 x 24 = 5,520
(3) Living Allowance @ RM100 a day - RM100 x 29 = 2,900
Total RM 11,270
(Note: Hotel allowance calculated at 24 days for the five weeks last October as MPs are allowed an extra day of hotel stay a week to enable MPs to arrive a day before the meeting. Living allowance calculated at 29 days as MPs are allowed two extra days, one before and one after the meeting week, to arrive and leave Kuala Lumpur for home. MPs who do not stay in hotels can claim accommodation allowance of RM80 a day.)
From these three items alone, an MP would have exceeded RM10,000 parliamentary claims last October without taking into account other claims, such as laundry and telephone bills in hotels and mileage/airfare claims once a week to and from home.
For instance, for an MP from Penang Island, the weekly mileage claim at 60 sen per kilometer for the two-way 740 kilometre distance including toll charges would be in the region of RM520 a week or RM 2,600 last October (five weeks), bringing the total which could be claimed to RM11,270 + RM2,600 = RM13,870.
If the Penang Island MP had not stayed in hotels, he/she could only claim accommodation allowance of RM80 a day instead of the RM230 hotel allowance a day, but the parliamentary claims for full attendance of the five-week 19-day budget meeting for October last year would also be over RM10,000, as follows:
(1) Meeting allowance @ RM150 a day - RM150 x 19 = 2,850
(2) Accommodation allowance @ RM 80 a day - RM 80 x 24 = 1,920
(3) Living Allowance @ RM100 a day - RM100 x 29 = 2,900
(4) Mileage and toll claims - RM 520 x 5 = 2,600
Total RM 10,270
From the above particulars, all MPs who recorded full attendance for the 19-day parliamentary sittings last October and stayed in hotels should be submitting “meeting claims” of well over RM10,000 for the month, with the overwhelming majority of all other MPs who do not stay at hotels at the plus-or-minus RM10,000-figure.
From the parliamentary regulations, MPs who did not claim above RM10,000 a month for last October would have either under-claimed or under-attended the budget meeting.
What is shocking however, and even news to me although I had been MP for 30 years from 1969 to 1999, is that “non-meeting” claims by MPs could exceed RM10,000 a month, when they receive invitations to Federal, State and government agency functions – which is clearly indefensible and waste of public funds.
This is why all the 16 MPs from both sides of the House named by Nor should publicly clarify whether their parliamentary claims exceeding RM10,000 a month were “meeting claims” or “non-meeting” claims. Furthermore, if it is wrong for an MP to have monthly “non-meeting” claims exceeding RM10,000, it cannot be right when they are below RM10,000 a month.
This is why the parliamentary claims of all MPs, whether Barisan Nasional, Barisan Alternative or DAP, both “meeting” and “non-meeting”, after the 1999 general election, should be made public and explanations given for excessive claims to assure the public of no abuse of parliamentary privilege.
If MPs ignore this issue, a cloud will have descended on all Members of Parliament, gravely throwing into doubt the credibility and integrity of the 10th Parliament. There are two options before Parliament – the Committee of Privileges should swing into action to investigate into the whole matter or set up a five-men inquiry committee comprising MPs and former MPs nominated by the consensus of both ruling and opposition parties to investigate and to make recommendations to clear the name of Parliament and MPs.
* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman