KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 30 — The allocation of more than RM2 billion in Budget 2021 for the Prime Minister’s Department for unclear purposes might be “slush funds” that could be used as the prime minister pleases, DAP MP Chong Chieng Jen claimed today.
Chong, who is Stampin MP and also Sarawak DAP chief, highlighted the “drastic” increase of the allocation for development expenditure under the Prime Minister’s Department from RM2.93 billion in 2020, to RM7.22 billion in 2021, which he said represented a jump of 146 per cent.
“And if we look at it in detail, there exists a few items that we can categorise as slush funds, which are allocations without any specific purposes and subject to the whims and fancies of the prime minister alone,” he said.
Chong listed these allocations which he suggested could be considered as slush funds under the Prime Minister’s Department, before going on to accuse the Perikatan Nasional government of adopting alleged questionable practices under the past Barisan Nasional administration.
He listed these allocations as a development programme which was allocated RM159 million for 2020, but now has a RM520 million allocation for 2021; public private partnership projects which had zero allocation for 2020 but now have an RM813 million allocation for 2021 while also questioning who the public private partnerships are; “special projects” which were allocated only RM100 million for 2020 but are now allocated RM1 billion for 2021, as well as Projek Mesra Rakyat that had zero allocations for 2020 but now is allocated RM330 million for 2021.
Highlighting the RM1 billion allocation for “special projects” in particular, Chong asked: “What are special projects? Special for the prime minister to buy the support of MPs to maintain his power? Is that the special projects which were mentioned and meant?”
“Looks like the reforms that Pakatan Harapan did previously, which is devolution of powers from the prime minister, has been reversed by the government now. And the practice of ‘Cash is King’ and ‘concentration of power in the hands of the prime minister’ will be inherited from Pekan to Pagoh,” he claimed, referring to Pekan MP Datuk Seri Najib Razak who was the former prime minister heading the BN government and Pagoh MP Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin who is the current prime minister heading the Perikatan Nasional government.
Chong went on to highlight at the same time that the allocation under the Prime Minister’s Department for projects for the poor in peninsula Malaysia, Sabah, Sarawak has been reduced by 30 per cent from RM90 million in Budget 2020 to RM63 million in Budget 2021, despite the increase in development expenditure for the Prime Minister’s Department as a whole.
“Are the welfare of the poor less important until projects for the poor have to be cut?” he questioned.
Chong was debating Budget 2021 at the committee stage in the Dewan Rakyat, specifically on the budget for the prime minister’s department.
Like Chong, other MPs today had also questioned the budget allocation of RM1 billion for “special projects,” including Tuaran MP Datuk Seri Wilfred Madius Tangau and Kuantan MP Fuziah Salleh.
Minister gives assurance
Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed, minister in the Prime Minister’s Department in charge of economy, then responded to the questions raised in the debate on the “special projects” allocation, telling Chong specifically that there are no such elements of slush funds.
Mustapa noted that the government had started allocating funds for special projects under the Prime Minister’s Department since 2012, and that such allocations were also made under the 11th Malaysia Plan with RM25 billion for such purposes.
“And next year it is RM1 billion, this is to tackle payments for urgent projects outside of the government’s planning, small projects that in general are high impact and citizen-friendly.
“Just now there were allegations of non-transparency, use of the word ‘slush funds’. I give the assurance that there is no such element,” he said.
Mustapa said the special funds allocation in 2019 was for example spent on projects for roads, education centres, community halls and houses of worship, while a big part of this allocation for 2020 is for Felda areas that the government had viewed as lacking allocations and that requests for funds from states such as Pahang, Sabah, and Negri Sembilan for Felda had been approved.
As for the RM813 million allocated in 2021 for public private partnerships, Mustapa said this allocation is to pay rent on several government buildings.
“All this RM813 million is not a secret, there are around 10 projects that the government has to pay rent on, availability charges, availability payments, maintenance payments; such as paying rent for Parcel F, Putrajaya involving RM324 million and around 40 per cent of allocations next year is for this purpose,” he said of the proportion that Parcel F rental takes up of the RM813 million allocation.