Khir’s RM1.7m Disney trips

(The Sun) Former Selangor Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Dr Mohd Khir Toyo and his entourage spent RM1.7 million of public funds to visit two Disneyland theme parks in the United States and France, but the working trips did not include meetings with Disneyland officials and no reports were submitted after that.

These trips which took place in 2007 and 2004 were in addition to two other trips to Disneyland parks in Hongkong in March 2006 for which the entourage spent RM30,000 and Tokyo, in preparation for the setting up of a 8ha theme park in Bagan Lalang.

State investment arm Permodalan Negeri Selangor Bhd (PNSB) paid for these trips, its chief executive officer Datin Khairiyah Abu Hassan told the Selangor Select Committee on Competency, Accountability and Transparency (Selcat) which today wrapped up its inquiry into the expenses of the now-defunct elected Selangor representatives' wives' welfare and charity organization (Balkis) and the excesses of state-linked companies.

The inquiry started on March 23. The findings will be to the state assembly in July.

Grilled by committee members, Khairiyah testified that the entourage merely visited the theme parks as members of the public and that the visits were more as an exposure to the management and concept of running a theme park.

Asked who decided on the trips, she said the decision was made at PNSB’s management meeting and by chairman and former MB Mohd Khir.

Elaborating on the trip to Disneyland in Paris between Dec 17 and 24, 2004, Khairiyah said PNSB spent almost RM1 million as the visit included a working trip to Morocco to study Moorish and Islamic architecture and a four-day transit stop in Dubai (costing more than RM90,000)

Other disclosures:

> Mohd Khir was accompanied on the Paris and Orlando, US, trips by his wife Datin Seri Zahrah Kechik (Balkis chief), their three children and maid.

> More than RM366,000 was spent on a reconnaissance trip in preparation for the working visit to Morocco while RM416,000 was spent for the official delegation.

Teng Chang Kim

> The RM646,841 trip to the United States between Dec 23, 2007 and Jan 1, 2008 included technical visits to Disneyland in Orlando and Miami beach after which the entourage flew to Honolulu, Hawaii, where they went on a city tour, visited the Pearl Harbour and Chinatown, watched a cultural show and went on a dinner cruise. The group also visited the Kennedy space centre to see how this concept could be included in the Bagan Lalang theme park.

> PNSB paid RM110,000 for a suite room for Mohd Khir, his wife and three children at the Hilton Waikiki Hotel and the Walt Disney Dolphin Hotel prior to that.

Selcat chairman Teng Chang Khim remarked: "This is equivalent to RM10,000 a night throughout the seven day visit."

On the Dubai transit during the Paris trip, Teng asked why a transit took four days.

He also questioned the need for a reconnaissance team to go ahead of the official delegation when this could have been done by the Malaysian embassy in France.

Khairiyah also told Selcat that no report was submitted on the technical trips to Disneyland.

Although there were invoices to show that the cost of accommodation and airfare for the children of Mohd Khir were absorbed by PNSB, Khairiyah said this was paid back to PNSB.

However, Selcat member Azmin Ali challenged her, saying there was no proof of this.

Questioned by Azmin whether the trips were leisure trips instead of working trips as the trips took place in December, Khairiyah said she did not know the rationale behind the trips.

Khairiyah also said the company RM58,362 for a trip to China for a car show of which almost RM39,999 was spent on Mohd Khir alone.

She said the trip was organised for Mohd Khir to accompany the Sultan to the show and added that the expenditure incurred came out of PNSB chairman’s annual vacation budget which is RM40,000.

Azmin read out the itinerary which was vague and only outlined breakfast, lunch and dinner with a golf game thrown in during the five day programme.

Khairiyah Abu Hassan

Khairiyah also said that PNSB spent RM38,000 for a trip to Indonesia for study trip in the batik industry which included stays in expensive hotel suites and post luxury car rentals among others.

The idea was to implement a similar industry in Selangor, however it never took off, she said, adding that Mohd Khir was accompanied by Zahrah, a child and their maid.

At the end of the inquiry, Teng said the first public hearing to be held by a legislative body was smooth except that two key witnesses failed to turn up.

"Mohd Khir and his wife refused to turn up and explain to the people what happened to Balkis and PNSB all these years," he said.

Teng said Mohd Khir will be referred to the committee of privileges for failure to attend the hearing while Zahrah can be prosecuted under Section 5 of the Contempt of the House Act 2008. "However, she can only be prosecuted with the consent of the Attorney General."

Teng also disclosed that the Registrar of Societies (ROS) refused to produce crucial documents which are accessible to the public and not deemed as official secrets.

He said under Section 114(g) of the Evidence Act, this raises presumptions against the ROS, that the facts in the documents are unfavorable to certain persons.

"There is no reason for the ROS not to produce it unless it is a false document," he added.