KUCHING: The state government’s 2012 budget as announced by Chief Minister and Minister of Finance Abdul Taib Mahmud on Monday has a big ‘black hole’ that sucks in everything, said Chong Chieng Jen, DAP state assemblyman for Kota Sentosa.
Chong who is also Sarawak Pakatan Rakyat’s shadow minister of finance was referring to an allocation of RM1.7 billion out of RM3,263 million development fund towards approved agencies trust fund.
More than 50% of the development fund go to these ‘faceless’ agencies which the Opposition had wanted to know in the past few years.
“Nobody knows what these agencies are? And I have been asking the same question for the past few years as to which agencies are using these funds that have repeatedly appeared in the State Development Expenditure allocated to the Ministry of Finance.
In 2007, the allocation under this heading was RM1,257,000,000, and in 2008 it was increased to RM1,719,083,100, and 2009 to RM1,825,061,000.
For 2010, the fund went down to RM1,072,409,800, and this year it went up again to RM1,416,475,000.
For next year, the government’s contribution towards the approved agencies trust fund has been increased to RM1.7 billion.
Chong said: “Despite the large sums being allocated to this item in the budget year after year, the state government refuses to provide details of the agencies which have received funding under the heading.
“The Legislative Assembly is not informed of the identity of these recipients, thus rendering it impossible to supervise the utilisation of the funds allocated this heading.
“As such, the executive, especially the Chief Minister, since he is the Finance Minster, is not accountable for the money allocated under this heading,” he said, pointing out that it is absurd that details of the allocation of expenditure for an amount of as small as RM1200 are clearly spelt out in the budget while a huge amount exceeding RM1 billion is not properly accounted for.
“This defies the basic principle of political and financial accountability in a democratic system,” Chong said, pointing out that the opacity of this item makes it extremely susceptible to being abused.
He said: “Under the principle of accountability and transparency, the PR Sarawak (government) will put an end to such clandestine fiscal allocations.
“This allocation (RM1.7 billion) in 2012 will be spread out amongst the other ministries,” he said.
On allocations to various ministries, Chong said that the Land Development Ministry headed by James Masing should be dissolved as it gets zero allocation for development next year.
“For the fifth year running, Masing’s ministry has no estimate at all for development fund. All other ministries have some development funds.
“Even the most junior ministry, the Ministry of Welfare, Women and Family Development headed by Fatimah Abdullah has RM2.3 million for its development fund,” said Chong.
He said that the zero fund for Masing’s ministry seemed to confirm the Pakatan Rakyat’s alternative budget announced last Saturday.
“I mentioned in my budget launched last Saturday that the Land Ministry should be dissolved as it overlaps with the Ministry of Rural Development, the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Planning and Resource Management.
“I thought with Masing being promoted to a senior minister his ministry at least should have some funding, and next year will be the fifth year it has no development fund.
“It has only RM3 million plus for the salaries of the staff in the ministry. So his ministry should be dissolved and Masing’s elevation and promotion to a senior minister is just a political stunt in order to make him happy and feel more important.
“What can you do without such fund? You go to office, surf internet and go back. You don’t have project.
“So Masing should go on retirement and his ministry be dissolved,” suggested Chong.