Samy Vellu’s claim that RM100 million for Parliament renovation is not high makes total mockery of Abdullah’s call to slash projects which are not beneficial or cost-effective – as the RM85 million Parliament renovation is classic example of waste of public funds without improved efficiency and functionality of MPs to create a First World Parliament
Media Conference Statement (1)
by Lim Kit Siang
(Putrajaya, Monday): I have lodged a report with the Anti-Corruption Agency, but I am prohibited under Section 21(4) of the Anti-Corruption Act 1997 from saying a single word about my ACA report, as it states:
“21(4).A report made under subsection (1) shall be kept secret and shall not be disclosed by any person to any person other than officers of the Agency and the Public Prosecutor until an accused person has been charged in court for an offence under this Act or any other written law in consequence of such report”.
Any infringement of this provision is a criminal offence liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding RM10,000 or two years’ jail or both.
Although I cannot say a single word of my ACA report, I want to respond to what appeared in the press today, in particular the ludicrous claim by the Works Minister, Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu that RM100 million for Parliament renovation is not high.
Samy Vellu has in fact made a total mockery of the directive by the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi on Saturday to the Public Works Department to slash all prestigious projects which are of little benefit to the people.
Although Samy Vellu responded within hours by declaring that he will submit a list of high-cost projects and consult with Abdullah, who is also the Finance Minister, on the projects that needed to be postponed, it is shocking that after being a Works Minister for two decades in his more than 25 years in the Cabinet, Samy Vellu needs guidance from the Prime Minister to identify what are the development projects which are wasteful and mere “white elephants” as compared to beneficial and cost-effective ones.
The Works Ministry should not only slash wasteful prestigious “white elephant” projects, but should slash wasteful features and expenditures from necessary development projects to concentrate on functionality and utility.
The Parliament renovation is a good example. There is pressing need for a renovation of Parliament House, which was built in 1963 at a cost of RM18 million for 104 elected Members of Parliament. More than 40 years later today, with elected MPs more than doubled to 219, more space and facilities are needed for MPs to carry out their heavier and manifold responsibilities, e.g. the 2005 Federal government budget is RM117.4 billion, more than 100 times the annual budget four decades ago when it was less than RM1 billion.
The RM85 million Parliament renovation has however become the symbol of how public funds should not be wasted, as apart from a glitzy appearance and many useless columns, there is less usable space, functionality and utility for MPs who have more than doubled since 1963.
The RM85 million renovation is five times the cost of the original Parliament House of R18 million, but it has not added a single square inch of extra space to the 1963 building!
Samy Vellu’s claim that RM100 million for Parliament renovation is not high therefore makes total mockery of Abdullah’s call to slash projects which are not beneficial or cost-effective – as the RM85 million Parliament renovation is a classic example of waste of public funds without improved efficiency and functionality of MPs to create a First World Parliament.
After spending RM85 million, there is not even a “smoking room” for MPs who smoke, so that the whole Parliament House could set the example of being smoking-free.Before 1999, thanks to the campaigning efforts of the then Deputy Health Minister, Datuk Farid Ariffin, Parliament was on the way to become one of the few and earliest national institutions to be “smoke-free” – but six years later, despite the naltion-wide “Tak Nak” campaign, the smoking condition in Parliament has got very much worse.
If the RM85 million Parliament renovation has to pass the test as to whether it is beneficial to the MPs, it will be a big flop. Now another RM14 million for the renovation is being requested, bringing the total cost to RM99 million.
If Samy Vellu really wants to heed Abdullah’s call to cut out prestige “white elephant” projects, he should ensure that wasteful features of the RM99 million Parliament renovation are slashed to maximize functionality and utility of the Parliament House. For a start, the entire Parliament renovation plan, together with all details including its separate costs, should be submitted to MPs and even to the public in keeping with the principles of openness, accountability and transparency.
* Lim Kit Siang,
Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP
Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission
Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman