Were the GST refunds stolen or not stolen?

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KUALA LUMPUR (July 20): Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng and his predecessor Datuk Seri Najib Razak both claim to be vindicated by the 484-page report released by the bipartisan Public Accounts Committee (PAC) last week – close to a year after news of individual and institutional taxpayers collectively being denied as much as RM19.4 billion in goods and services tax (GST) refunds first surfaced last August.

Who’s right depends on whom one asks. What’s certain, though, is excess GST collection was used by the previous administration instead of refunded to eligible claimants.

Some observers liken the episode to an employer withholding salaries until the final day, or worse, deducting EPF contributions from salaries but only depositing the sum with the provident fund months later. But we digress. There is a bigger underlying issue at hand that the current administration is still sweating at.

What does the episode say about the country’s finances?

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