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Apr 10, 2008

Zoom in on PKFZ scandal

Sun2surf - IT IS indeed very brave of new Transport Minister Datuk Ong Tee Keat to commit himself to explaining what went wrong with the scandal-ridden Port Klang Free Zone shipping area that almost two years after it was completed it is still not attracting investors and is resembling more a ghost town than the region’s hub of choice for the export and transshipment of manufactured goods.

His predecessor, Datuk Seri Chan Kong Choy, was hounded by the media and the opposition parties throughout his term to explain many of the allegations levelled against the RM4.6 billion project embarked on by the ministry’s Port Klang Authortiy and financed through soft loans from the government.

Chan’s attempts at explaining the various allegations, especially that of mismanagement which led to the costs ballooning from RM2.3 billion when the project started in 2004 to RM4.6 billion when it was completed, through a number of public statements did not satisfy the public.

They did not adequately explain the cost overruns, allegations of conflict of interest and dubious land deals and allegations that political interference had led to the Dubai-based Jebel Ali Free Zone (Jafza) which had been appointed to manage and promote PKFZ pulling out from its 15-year contract. The public continued to rail against the alleged mispractices by those responsible for the Jafza-inspired project and it was fodder for the opposition parties in the recently-concluded general election.

The decision to come out with a full report on the malaise-ridden PKFZ cannot be that of the minister alone but is probably backed by the full authority of the cabinet. Why would the ministry want to re-visit an unpleasant episode unless it is prepared, in the interest of transparency and commitment to fight corruption, to take action against those responsible for mismanaging the project?

The RM2.3 billion original cost of the project is already a huge sum but when it was allowed to overrun to RM4.6 billion it is a sheer case of criminal abuse and mismanagement. In all cases of financial mismanagement of the public purse, the losers are the tax payers and they have every right to demand for a full explanation and when that was denied them they had no choice but to resort to other courses of action. More...


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