Media Statement by Lim Kit Siang in Petaling Jaya on Sunday, 23rd November 2008: 

Three questions on the RM50 million Pempena Group of Companies scandals which Azalina should answer in Parliament next week since non-functioning Pempena Executive Chairman Chew Mei Fun has refused to accept accountability 

I am posing three questions on the RM50 million Pempena Group of Companies scandals for the Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Azalina Othman to answer in Parliament next week since the non-functioning Pempena Executive Chairman Datuk Paduka Chew Mei Fun has clamped up and refused to accept accountability.

Firstly, why was PricewaterhouseCooper engaged to conduct a high-level business review of Pempena’s 14 Investee Companies and not on all its 24 Investee Companies – especially as most of the 24 investee companies have not been recording operational profits over the last three years.

Out of these selected 14 investee companies reviewed, PwhC has proposed that Pempena should “exit its investments” from five companies, suffering an immediate loss of RM20 million. The five companies are:

(i) Malaysia Tourism Executive Sdn Bhd (“Matex”)
(ii) Sri Kebaya Restaurant Sdn Bhd (“Sri Kebaya”)
(iii) Malaysia Restaurant Hyderabad Limited (“Awana Hyderabad”)
(iv) Dalamasa
(v) Nathena

PwhC also proposed the liquidation of another company, My Destination, which will involve a loss of RM7.5 million - making a total loss of RM27.5 million for the “exiting” from five companies and the liquidation of one!

But these are not the only losses confronting Tourism Ministry and its subsidiary, the Pempena Group of Companies as the 10 Pempena Investee companies which had been deliberately excluded in the PwhC review, are very sick companies.

These 10 Pempena companies excluded from PwhC review are in very parlous state as they included six Investee Companies which do not have any financial information and three Investee Companies with only partial financial information.

If these 10 “sick” and even bankrupt Pempena subsidiaries are taken into account for exiting investment or liquidation, it would mean that as many as 16 of the 24 Pempena Investee Companies have to be closed down bringing the total losses to RM40 to RM50 million.
The first question is why these 10 “worst” Pempena Investee Companies were excluded from PwhC review? What is the fate and future of these 10 companies.
What will be the total losses that would be incurred by Pempena Group of Companies if all the 18 of the 24 subisidary companies are to be closed down.

Secondly, why was “placement of funds in the money market and units trusts” one of the three “key activities” of the Pempena business plan, when the objective of Pempena is to promote tourism?

Azalina should give a full profit and loss report in Parliament of Pempena’s dabbling in the money market and unit trusts using public funds meant specifically for promoting tourism.

Thirdly, why is Pempena, the Tourism Ministry and Azalina making a mockery of the pledge by the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi that upholding accountability and integrity will be his final legacy to the country?

If the Tourism Ministry and Pempena can refuse to table in Parliament and make public the internal audit report of the RM50 million Pempena Group of Companies scandals, which were completed more than three months ago in August, just because it contained a huge can of worms about fraud, criminal breach of trust, misappropriation of public funds and abuse of power, what is the difference between the last months of the Abdullah premiership as compared to the last five years of Abdullah administration or the previous 22-year Mahathir premiership?

The Pempena Executive Chairman Datuk Paduka Chew Mei Fun should be answering these questions but she does not seem to realize or appreciate that she is paid RM10,000 a month by taxpayers and has refused to accept accountability as the CEO of Pempena.

I am still waiting for Chew’s application and cv as she had asked whether I would employ and “feed” her if she is no more Pempena Chairman.

However, Chew should realize that one of the essential conditions of service if I employ her is that she must accept the principles of accountability, transparency and good governance. Maybe Pempena and the Ministry of Tourism are the only places where she could get away with impunity with her irresponsible attitude of clamping up and refusing to accept responsibility and accountability which comes from her job specification.

* Lim Kit Siang,  DAP Parliamentary leader & MP for Ipoh Timor