The Auditor-General questioned a RM303,813 travel claim by a Communications and Culture Ministry senior officer for a four-day study trip to Geneva, Switzerland, which the auditors felt was worth only RM50,000.
The 2012 Auditor-General Report revealed that even if the officer took a return first-class flight, stayed in the best hotels, wined and dined in fancy restaurants and was given allowances to shop for winter clothing, the final tab would have cost no more than RM50,000.
The claim was made by the officer as part of the ministry’s Malaysian Emergency Response Services (MERS) 999 project. MERS 999 is a government initiative to have only one emergency number, sub-contracted out by the ministry to Telekom Malaysia (TM).
The project, done in phases from 2007 to 2012, cost the government a total of RM801.55 million.
The report also pointed out that the ministry overpaid for various charges, with the auditor-general’s office unable to verify the claims since no receipts were given.
The auditor-general noted that TM was overpaid by RM27.59 million for the MERS 999 project. The report showed that the government-linked telecommunications firm hired local and foreign consultants for RM9.97 million. It was RM1.92 million more than what the experts were supposed to receive.
Among other things, TM was paid RM6.7 million for media publicity and school programmes to educate children about the MERS 999 system. The only problem was that the programme was cancelled in October 2008 but TM still charged the ministry for it.
The project’s whole purpose was to increase efficiency and reduce the number of non-emergency calls. The data tabulated by the auditor-general’s office, however, showed that the number of false-alarm calls increased by 4.9% or 820,000 from 2010 to 2011.
Although TM was overpaid for the project, the report mentioned that the firm had provided a less than satisfactory service since 7.65 million (32.4%) of the calls made to the emergency line went unanswered.
It was also revealed in the report that from January 2010 to August 2012, 50.31 million calls (97.5%) made to the MERS 999 system were non-emergency calls. - October 1, 2013.