PAC’s first job is to submit an immediate report to Parliament to amend Standing Orders

The Communications and Multimedia Minister, Datuk Ahmad Shabery Cheek wants live television coverage of his appearance before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) to prove himself right and the Auditor-General Tan Sri Ambrin Buang wrong over the expenses of the K-Pop concert last year.

Shabery had challenged the 2012 Auditor-General’s Report that the K-Pop concert, which was part of the mammoth 2012 Hari Belia celebrations, had cost the government RM1.6 million, claiming that the auditor-general was “culas” (not diligent) in the audit and did not take into account the RM20 million in sponsorship raised.

Strangely, the current Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin also said the government paid for the concert, but was forced to do so because sponsorship pledges fell through.

Shabery should be given the opportunity of live telecast of his testimony before the PAC on the Auditor-General’s 2012 Report on the government expenditure of RM1.6 million for the K-Pop concert, when the Ministry had claimed right from the beginning that the cost of bringing in the three K-Pop groups – U-Kiss, Teen-Topo and Dal*shabet – was borne through sponsorship.

Let Shabery respond to the Auditor-General’s 2012 Report on the Youth Ministry when he was the Minister, including the Auditor-General’s reprimand of “excessive” and “imprudent” spending, amounting to RM3 million on this and eight other prorammes to mark the 2012 Hari Belia.

A total of RM1.11 million was spent on promotion and publicity for the event, which the auditor-general described as too high.

Other expenses similarly classified were:

  • Two separate payments of RM50,000 to 50 bloggers for promotion and publicity.
  • Three bloggers paid a total of RM7,500 as daily allowance for five days’ coverage of the event.
  • Spending on ‘non-prudent’ items such as RM33,500 for a promotional dinner at a Petaling Jaya hotel and RM42,466 for hi-tea and to lodge journalists at Hotel Marriot in Putrajaya.
  • Another RM48,300 spent on a ‘working visit’ to Institut Kemahiran Belia Negara in Jitra, Kedah, and then to Songkhla, Phuket and Krabi in Thailand. The trip involved 21 personnel from the National Youth Day secretariat as well as senior ministry officers.

Shabery’s appearance before the PAC will be a good precedent for all other Ministers to appear before the PAC to explain the waste, negligence, malpractices, abuses of power and corruption causing grave and unacceptable losses of public funds in their Ministries under their watch, for if the former Youth and Sports Minister can appear before the PAC, there is no reason why other Ministers, whether Education, Home, Works, Tourism, Transport, Health, Rural and Regional Development, Agriculture, Defence, Finance or even the Prime Minister cannot appear before the PAC on grounds of accountability, transparency and integrity under the Government Transformation Plan.

However, under the present Standing Orders, the PAC cannot hold public hearings – another example where the Malaysian Parliament has lagged behind legislatures all over the world in parliamentary reforms as the majority of Parliaments, including the House of Commons, have now progressed to public hearings for the PAC to allow for greater accountability and transparency.

PAC’s first job is to submit an immediate report to Parliament when it reconvenes on Oct 21 to amend the Dewan Rakyat Standing Orders so that PAC can hold public hearings into its examination of 2012 Auditor-General’s Report as is now the practice in most legislatures in the world.

The 89 Members of Parliament from Pakatan Rakyat are prepared to give support to allow the PAC to immediately conduct public hearings.

Are the Barisan Nasional MPs prepared to co-operate with the PR MPs to give effect to the parliamentary reform to allow the PAC to hold public hearings to allow both members of the public as well as the media to be present at its meetings?

Lim Kit Siang DAP Parliamentary Leader & MP for Gelang Patah