Swinging a deal-icious deal

ON Tuesday, I wrote about how we as taxpayers and stakeholders should demand that we get our money’s worth.

The government which makes it mandatory for us to pay taxes has a responsibility and an obligation to ensure that we get good returns on investment.

After highlighting the frequent breakdowns in the RM200 million (some say it’s more) Autogate system at our entry point at the Low-Cost Carrier Terminal, Immigration Department director-general Datuk Alias Ahmad on Tuesday said a new system, MyIM will be introduced in May to replace the old and faulty Autogate which had served us for more than a 15 years.

This system, I am told, cost another few hundred million and just goes to justify the points made earlier that we keep throwing good money after bad. Why is there a need to "upgrade" the old system when its use has not been expanded? If there is indeed a shelf life, then 15 years is way too short a lifespan for something that cost so much.

To be fair, MyIM (or My Immigration) will also include passport applications, registration of domestic helpers as well as facilitate the entry of foreign visitors and expatriates. If only we had this foresight 15 years ago, we would be saving so much money.

As usual, ad hoc decisions are made, a result of knee-jerk reactions by those seeking stop gap measures and perhaps even vindication. Who cares what happens 20 years down the road, as long as the problems are resolved in the here and now. We shall wait with bated breath to see if a few years down the road we need to spend another RM200 million to fix problems in MyIM and introduce a MyIM2.

Speaking of throwing away money, there is a land swap deal which does not add up. This example, courtesy of the previous Selangor government seems to tell us that someone high up the ranks was not paying attention during "kira-kira" lessons.

How can you give more and receive less in return? Anyone can tell you that the Petaling Land Office land swap deal was lop-sided and raises questions as to the intentions and competence of those who agreed to sign away prime land. One cannot fault the developer, Syarikat Gapurna Builders Sdn Bhd, as with bottom lines being its only concern, it will take whatever sweet deal which comes its way.

Former mentri besar Datuk Seri Dr Mohamad Khir Toyo has to explain why the state gave up land which has a gross development value of RM180 million in return for an office block costing RM24.6 million?

It is incumbent on all right thinking taxpayers to ask why the Selangor Government would put itself at such a disadvantage. Although Mohamad Khir’s successor Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim maintains that it is legally binding, there is no such thing as a willing seller-willing buyer situation here as the people of Selangor would certainly NOT be willing to have such valuable assets acquired for a song.

But just as in the case of the ownership of low-cost homes by the rich, to quote Abdul Khalid: "It is legally right but morally wrong."

Selangor has been at the receiving end of many lopsided deals. If the coffers are running dry, it would be wise to see where the money has gone. Examples of money and assets going down the drain are plenty:

> The Selangor Agriculture Development Corporation joint venture in 2001 was supposed to bring in RM800 million in 20 years but has so far brought in only RM500,000 – at the cost of 11,000ha of state land which are now in the hands of private companies;

> Land worth millions alienated to developers for a song;

> The siphoning of revenue in the form of licence fees for billboards via the Sports Club of the  Petaling Jaya City Council; and

> Illegal sand dredging that is costing the state almost RM1 billion in revenue and rehabilitation costs.

These have been articulated before dear readers. And the fact that I have to keep harping on them seems to give weight to the saying that "when all is said and done; more is said than done."

TERENCE is open to suggestions on how to swing handsome deals. He is reachable at