Govt overpaid RM490m in BR1M, says think tank

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KUALA LUMPUR: The government may have overpaid some RM490 million to 930,000 households last year in the form of the Bantuan Rakyat 1Malaysia (BR1M), PKR’s think tank said yesterday.

The Institut Rakyat said this was based on conflicting figures given by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Abdul Wahid Omar on Tuesday and Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak when announcing the 2012 BR1M allocations three years ago.

“Previously, the government boasted that BR1M had been given to those households earning less than RM3,000 per month, representing 5.2 million or 80% of all Malaysian households in 2012,” the think tank’s executive director Yin Shao Loong said in a statement.

However, in Parliament on Tuesday, Wahid revealed that about one-third or two million of Malaysian households still earn less than RM3,000 per month, which equals 28.7% out of seven million households.

“Did 3.2 million households suddenly clear the RM3,000 per month threshold? Is this a temporary effect of BR1M injections or a more serious statistical error on the part of the government?

“This question is important because it has serious implications on the accuracy and accountability of government spending. It is also important for national clarity about the true [number] of low-income households.”

Yin said figures from the Department of Statistics for 2012 showed that 38.5% of households earned below RM3,000 per month, while the Economic Planning Unit in the PM’s Department reported that 38.8% of households earned below RM3,000 the same year.

“If the statistics from the department are right, it may mean that the government overpaid BR1M to 930,000 households in 2013, representing an estimated overspend of RM490 million.”

He questioned whether the amount paid was a statistical error or a more “cynical attempt” to gain votes ahead of the 13th general election in May last year.

“The government is slashing subsidies and implementing the GST [goods and services tax] in order to improve its revenue, yet there could be millions or billions misspent due to miscalculations or statistical manipulation.”

“The government and the Auditor General’s office must account for this,” he said.

He said Wahid needs to explain the discrepancies in the numbers and the 3.2 million households that appear to have “graduated” from the under-RM3,000 a month category.

Najib first introduced BR1M in 2012, providing cash aid of RM500 to households with income of RM3,000 and below.

The BR1M allowance to households with monthly income of RM3,000 and below has been increased from RM500 to RM650 this year. — The Malaysian Insider

This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on October 9, 2014.