Acts regulating Felda to be reevaluated to ensure better governance

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PUTRAJAYA (May 14): Existing Acts regulating the Federal Land Development Authority (Felda) will be re-evaluated to see the need to either improve or amend them for better governance in the future, Deputy Economic Affairs Minister Dr Radzi Jidin said.

He said this would help improve the check and balance capabilities in Felda’s management system to prevent further fraud from occurring in the governance of the board.

Felda’s woes resulted from allegedly poor board governance and management, he said, adding that, “This is because the existing Felda system had been disrespected and damaged and everything had been violated."

Due to the failed and uncontrollable governance, Felda's debt increased significantly by 1,100% from RM1.2 billion in 2007 to RM14.4 billion in 2017, while asset value increased only 107% from RM12.1 billion in 2007 to RM25 billion in 2017, he said after giving a briefing on Felda issues at the Ministry of Communications and Multimedia here today.

Citing the forensic audit findings on eight Felda’s investments, including the purchase of Indonesia’s Eagle High Plantations’ stake higher than the market price, Radzi said it proved that the previous Felda’s management team had infringed the process in making decisions and perpetrate violations to the system.

During the briefing, Felda director-general Datuk Dr Othman Omar, who was asked about the status of former Felda board members, said actions had been taken against them, including being removed from critical positions for the time being.

"Fifteen former board members are currently on leave, some on unpaid leave, while others were transferred to Felda subsidiaries and assumed non-critical positions," he said.

Othman said he was in consultation with lawyers to ascertain and evaluate whether they were “victims” or “perpetrators” in every management decision before.

"We will respect their rights to prove that they had taken the necessary actions," he said.

Meanwhile, Radzi said the forensic audit findings on the eight investments were only part of the cases uncovered in Felda.

“Some cases have been completed, some cases have been dealt with by the authorities, while some are still being scrutinised. The eight are part of the whole cases, there are many more cases uncovered," he said.

He expressed confidence that Felda will recover within the next five years, following the presentation of the White Paper by Economic Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali in the Dewan Rakyat on April 10.

"We are very concerned about the problems faced by settlers and Felda, and we are implementing the plans that have been formulated and we expect the impact will be reflected in five years’ time," Radzi said. — Bernama