Audit finds MCMC funds used for Najib's books, among others

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KUALA LUMPUR (July 15): The Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) spent RM12.81 million on special projects unrelated to its mandate of regulating the communications industry from 2016 up to April 2018.

That is the finding of the Auditor-General's Report 2018 Series 1 under the Activities of the Federal Ministries/ Departments section.

From the RM12.81 million, among the more interesting expenditures that deviated from MCMC's raison d'etre is RM104,679 on predictive analytics on the Sungai Besar by-election in 2016 from a ministerial directive.

Recall that Barisan Nasional retained the Sungai Besar state assembly seat with a larger 2,289-vote majority. The by-election was held after the death of the incumbent, the late Noriah Kasnon, who won in 2013 with a slim 399-vote majority.

Another MCMC expense incurred by ministerial directive was the procurement of a big data analytics system called the MyInsight System, which cost the commission RM4.75 million.

The MyInsight System was procured on April 17, 2018, three weeks before the 14th general election on May 9, 2018.

MCMC also spent RM100,000 as donation on behalf of the minister for 50,000 copies of then-prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak's book in February 2018. The title of the book was not mentioned.

These are some of the highlighted findings from the National Audit Department's review of 74 payments classified as 'special projects' worth RM671.32 million.

In particular, the audit noted that project expenditures which involved channelling funds to other government agencies were done by the order of the minister.

"Based on the feedback as at Jan 31, 2019, MCMC is only involved in the fund allocation stage and did not monitor the implementation of these projects," the audit added.

According to the audit findings, MCMC procedures do not require special projects to be approved by the commission's members.

Furthermore, the operating procedure and guideline for channelling funds to third parties is also not yet finalised. The reported added: "Audit checks on supporting documents for the purpose of payments found that for the minister's CSR expenditure, the approval justifications were not stated clearly ..."

In MCMC's response to the audit findings, which was included in the report, the commission said that it has stopped all corporate social responsibility (CSR) funding for the minister and had not allocated any funds in its budget for this purpose.

"The payment related to the predictive analytics on Sungai Besar election was done for the purpose of a special research through field work and online research on behalf of the Minister of Communications and Multimedia as suggested by the Unit Pengurusan PRestasi dan Pelaksanaan (Pemandu) (in the) Prime Minister's Department," MCMC explained.

As for the guidelines on channelling funds to third parties, MCMC said the commission had decided to cancel the draft through order of the minister.

MCMC also said it had proposed to the ministry that the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission Act (1998) be amended to revoke the minister's powers to give instruction to the commission.

MCMC added that it will ensure all future expenditure is in line with its mandate and that it will take note of the audit findings moving forward.

For more stories on the AG's Report 2018, click here.