Frankly Speaking

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Walk the talk and release the PKFZ reportThe new Cabinet is in place under a new prime minister. And if Datuk Seri Najib Razak wants to show — beyond slogans and a walkabout — that his government will be one that is accountable, performance-driven and free of scandals, one of the first things he should do is order the release of the full Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PWC) report on the RM4.6 billion Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) scandal.The report was completed more than two months ago and submitted to Transport Minister Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat, who has not fulfilled the promise he made when he first took office last year to release it. And going by his latest comment on the matter last Thursday, he is now passing the buck to the Klang Port Authority (KPA) and offering excuses like documents need to be declassified.The people do not buy such excuses anymore. They know the Cabinet has the power to act. Now is the time to walk the talk, and the new “Team Malaysia” Cabinet should make the PWC report public and in full. Otherwise, the rakyat will say it is business as usual and yet another cover-up simply because certain Barisan Nasional politicians are involved in the project.

Disclose the recipientsIn an unprecedented manner, accountability and transparency has forged to the forefront as governments across the globe splurge billions on pump-priming the economy. The US has a website to inform its citizens on where its US$787 billion (RM2.83 trillion) stimulus package is going.Last week, Malaysia too launched a website to inform the people on how many projects have been launched with the first and second stimulus packages. The first stimulus package is RM7 billion, out of which RM5.58 billion has already been disbursed while the second package is a record-breaking RM60 billion. Out of that, a sum of RM15 billion is in the form of fiscal spending while the rest are through guarantees and spending by the various government agencies.Of the RM5.58 billion disbursed, the actual amount spent is RM270 million, which is probably why people on the ground have not felt the effects of the spending yet. Some 5,597 projects are being identified, out of which offers for 31.2% of the jobs have already been made, while offers are being made to implement the remaining 68.8%.Having a website to disclose information on where the money is going is a step in the right direction for Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak. So far, he is more transparent about the stimulus package than all his predecessors have been about public spending.But one thing is lacking. Browsing through both the US and Malaysian websites, information on who actually are the recipients of the funds is not found.On the US website, it states that the federal agencies have not allocated the funds yet and that such information would be made available as and when the funds filter into the system. The federal agencies are to begin reporting the status of the competitive grants and contracts from May 20, and by mid-July, the recipients of the funds are to disclose the use of the money.The Malaysian website provides broad information on what the funds are to be used for, how much has been disbursed, which ministry got how much, how many projects have been implemented and how many more will be carried out. But the vital piece of information as to who or which companies actually are the recipients of the contracts to carry out the projects is missing.It does not matter if the projects are largely small jobs, hence minimising leakage. It is vital to make known the list of companies and the value of the jobs they get for the sake of transparency.

Make KPIs publicPrime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said last week that his Cabinet ministers will be subjected to a series of key performance indicators (KPIs) to gauge their performance and achievements. The prime minister himself will be involved in assessing the performance of all the ministers every six months with the assistance of Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon, who is in charge of the unit monitoring the KPIs.The move is certainly to be lauded as it enhances accountability. Let’s hope the KPI setting, measuring and monitoring process is carried out professionally and transparently, with a reference to the outside world, that is, the general public which the ministries serve and not just within the specific ministry.In terms of transparency, will we know what these KPIs are and how they translate to the respective ministers’ salaries and bonuses? How will they be measured and what happens if particular ministers fall short of their KPIs?Najib said the KPIs would focus on impact, rather than inputs and outcomes. How will the impact and outcome of each minister’s performance be measured and quantified? If and when these are announced, it is hoped the public will be kept in the know of changes or adjustments to the KPIs.

A simple ‘no comment’ would have sufficedLate last month, Proton Holdings Bhd flatly denied that the company may sign a technology sharing agreement with France’s Renault SA.Barely a week later, the company made an about-turn, stating that it was in preliminary talks with Renault and another company on a technical alliance to help make new models.Unless there was a sudden change within one week that Proton was unaware of, its denial of the negotiations is hard to reconcile with normal business practices.Even if negotiations are at a preliminary stage, Proton should have stated the facts clearly, rather than denying it and then finally letting the cat out of the bag a week later.Proton is a prominent company which is striving to change its reputation among consumers and investors both here and abroad. Its actions do not help rebuild confidence.Proton should have just fallen back on the age old “no comment”, which would have saved managing director Datuk Syed Zainal Abidin Syed Mohamed Tahir and Proton much embarrassment. Normal 0 This article appeared in The Edge Malaysia, Issue 750, April 13-19, 2009