Khairy and the NFC hole

By Yow Hong Chieh, The Malaysian Insider

They say you should never try to dig your way out of a hole — you’ll only make it deeper, bigger. Someone should tell Khairy Jamaluddin this.

The Umno Youth chief has defended the purchase of a RM10 million condominium by the National Meat & Livestocks Corporation (NMLC) — an associated company of the publicly-funded National Feedlot Centre (NFC) — as an investment.

He said the NMLC was left with surplus funds when the government ran out of money to develop satellite cattle farms that are crucial to supplying the NFC with feeder cows.

“Should they have left the money in the current account, which does not have a high yield, while waiting for the satellite farms or should they have invested the money while waiting,” he said last week.

This was only days after Khairy stressed that the RM250 million soft loan given to NFC by Putrajaya was kept in a “escrow-like” account where drawdowns have to be green-lighted by the Department of Veterinary Services (DVS).

The Rembau MP had also said that NFC boss and owner of NMLC Datuk Dr Mohamad Salleh Ismail — husband to Women, Family and Community Minister Datuk Seri Shahrizat Jalil — was eminently qualified to spearhead the feedlot scheme as he was formerly the food science head at Universiti Pertanian Malaysia.

But Khairy’s ardent defence throws up more questions than it answers.

If the conditions for drawdown are that strict, as Khairy has repeated on several occasions, how is it the DVS approved RM10 million for a condominium?

Does the department have a high-end property arm we don’t know about that valued the condominium and calculated projected returns from rental? Did the NMLC submit a study on the same? Or did the DVS not know what Mohamad Salleh planned to do with the money?

For that matter, what makes Mohamad Salleh qualified to invest in property?

I don’t dispute he may be qualified to run the feedlot but I don’t see what business he has using taxpayers’ money to buy a condominium in Bangsar.

Now I wonder if all federal ministries and agencies are this lax when it comes to spending our hard-earned tax ringgit.