Crooks spoil the day

FRAUDSTERS, opportunists and thieves are always on the lookout for loopholes and weaknesses in procedures, processes and systems to make a quick ringgit. Procedures or processes which are vague and schemes and projects where information is scarce or fails to reach the intended targets are easy pickings and a godsend for confidence tricksters. Add to that a gullible public who readily fall for scams and shady deals out of greed despite countless warnings from the authorities and countless reports in the media and you have a bonanza ripe for the cashing.

The government’s laudable initiative to help households earning less than RM3,000 a month by giving each cash aid of RM500 has become the target of those with ill-intent. Deputy Finance Minister Datuk Donald Lim told a press conference on Wednesday that crime syndicates are distributing fake Bantuan Rakyat 1Malaysia forms by adding extra columns to fish for applicants’ personal details like bank account numbers alongside original ones which require only the name and MyKad number. No bank account details are required as the money is given in cash.

Earlier misreporting of the scheme prompted the Internal Revenue Board, which is the agency responsible for processing the applications and disbursing the funds to as many as 5.2 million heads of households, to issue a statement on Tuesday that it was merely the facilitating agency following instructions from the Finance Ministry. The board’s offices nationwide have seen long lines of applicants who must submit the forms which are also available online by Jan 10 for the aid to be given out from Jan 15.

In the interim, it is incumbent upon the IRB, as the lead agency tasked with the project, to ensure that all measures are taken to weed out suspect applications and reassure intended aid recipients that their windfall will not land in the wrong pockets. As with previous similar exercises involving disbursement of monetary assistance, this one seems to have been rolled out without first disseminating the right information to the right audience and plugging potential loopholes to foil crooks.

It is inexcusable for the IRB to push the blame to the ministry by saying it is merely carrying out orders. When it comes to our hard-earned tax ringgit, we would expect the board to take all steps necessary to ensure that every sen is accounted for.