Federal Constitution clear on donations to govt

AS a retired auditor from the Auditor General's Office I have followed the changes in government and have some comments.

Tabung Harapan Malaysia

The fund began with the voluntary donation of money from members of the public to help the government in the repayment of loans.

The donations were "formalised" as collections when the Ministry of Finance issued a press statement agreeing to this collection by opening an account with Maybank for this purpose.

Subsequently, it was announced that a private auditor was being appointed to provide transparency in the management of this fund. I have not seen any news that money has been or is being paid progressively to the accountant general.

Article 97(1) of the Federal Constitution requires "All revenues and monies howsoever raised or received by the Federation shall ... be paid into and form one fund, to be known as the Federal Consolidated Fund".

The Tabung Harapan Malaysia can therefore only be a temporary account in the bank for collection purposes and the money received for the fund must be paid over to be accounted for in the Federal Consolidated Fund at the earliest to comply with the constitution. Federal government money cannot be kept outside the Federal Consolidated Fund.

Appointment of private auditor

Article 106(1) states clearly that "the accounts of the Federation ... shall be audited and reported on by the Auditor General".

This article requires the auditor general to undertake the audit and reporting on the Harapan Fund accounted for within the Consolidated Fund. The appointment of a private auditor is therefore questionable.

Maybank should clearly pay over to the accountant general, as early as possible, the collections that are received, preferably on a daily basis, with sufficient and complete documentary evidence of donors or contributors for the government to maintain such information and be answerable to any questions arising on the matter.

The donations remitted to the accountant general will initially be accounted for as a trust deposit, and eventually credited to a revenue account, maybe called Harapan Donations.

The stated aim or objective of this collection is to help the government to repay the outstanding loans when they become due.

The repayment of loans is a charged expenditure, and the repayment provision will be reflected in the budget for parliamentary approval.

Appointment of retired auditor general

The appointment of the retired auditor general as chairman of a committee to review, investigate contracts and procurement practices of the previous government is good and appropriate.

He has the ability, experience and public standing but can he accept this important position in view of Article 105(2) which bars "a person who has held the office of Auditor General" to "any other appointment in the service of the Federation ...".

The committees that have been created by the government to undertake the enormous task of reformation of government institutions, practices and procedures must or can be taken as extensions as a part of the federal service, more so if federal funds are spent to maintain the office of the re-employed auditor general as chairman of an investigative committee.

​I am not a lawyer, but when one works in the Auditor General's Office one has to read and understand legal issues that can confront you when you audit the ministries, departments and agencies.

Many government activities and programmes are governed by laws and regulations, and in the audit process you are required to ascertain "whether the provisions of the Federal Constitution and of the Financial Procedure Act 1957, and any other written law relating to monies or stores subject to his audit have been in all respect complied with".

It is my duty to raise these issues so that discussions can take place at the appropriate level.

P. Kanason Pothinker
Kuala Lumpur