Govt depts ordered to drop austerity measures

By Sarban Singh, The Star

The Treasury has lifted the ban on spending by government departments.

Now that the measures announced to cushion the impact of increasing fuel prices last year have been lifted, ministries and government agencies can buy assets which are work-related, move into new premises or renovate offices.

Treasury secretary-general Tan Sri Dr Wan Abdul Aziz Wan Abdullah said department heads could also renovate their premises or rent additional space if it was necessary.

“The austerity measures were specifically introduced to reduce spending then. Since this is another year, we have decided to lift the ban so that department heads will be able to plan for the year.

“We do not want them to encounter any difficulties (if the ban was still in force),” he said in a circular.

Dr Wan Abdul Aziz said, however, department heads must ensure that the funds were well spent and utilised only when necessary.

“The department heads must ensure they control their spending and adhere to the rules in place,” he said.

Last June, the Government announced several measures to cut spending following the drastic rise in global fuel prices.

Among these were the temporary halt in the recruitment of new employees in non-critical sectors, reduction in entertainment allowances for ministers and their deputies and cutting down on foreign trips, asset purchases and events.

The Government had also instructed all ministries and government agencies to hold their functions on a moderate scale and on government premises.

However, that order was later relaxed following appeals from hotels as their businesses were badly affected by the move.