Slur on Auditor-General’s credibility

Ravinder Singh, MM

According to Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Seri Shabery Cheek, there was “no misappropriation of funds by RTM in its purchase of a clock for RM3,810”  as it is “a special “precision clock” or “atomic clock”, which is connected to the Department of Time in the United States of America to ensure all time is standardised”.

This statement casts a very strong slur on the credibility of the Auditor-General’s team of auditors. Had this “fact” been explained to the auditors, could they not have understood the reasonableness of the price paid? 

Why this explanation only months after the Auditor-General’s report was published? By the way, how many clocks were purchased at the price of RM3,810.00 – “a clock” or 20 clocks as reported earlier?

The term “atomic clock” sounds very great, but these clocks are very common these days. American online marketing sites advertise these for as low as US$19.95 and pricier ones at around US$70. How much do these figures translate into Malaysian Ringgit?

This is a challenge to the credibility of the Auditor-General. If he remains silent in the face of this ‘explanation’, then his department is seen to be inefficient in carrying out proper auditing. Any auditor worth his salt should have questioned the person(s) responsible for the purchase and if the purchase was justified, then it should not have been highlighted in the A-G’s report as “excessively priced”.

Now who is to be believed, the A-G or the minister? The political master having spoken, is the A-G at liberty to tell us whether the minister is right or wrong?

If right, then the A-G would be admitting that his auditors were not competent in carrying out their duties.

This is also a challenge to the independence of the A-G. If he is not beholden to the political masters, then it behoves the A-G to clarify the ‘clarification’ of the minister. This statement brings disrepute to the whole of the A-G’s report as people will be wondering how many more ‘glaring mistakes’ (like this one) are contained in the report.

The A-G, if he is truly independent, should rise to the occasion and speak the truth, i.e. is the minister right or wrong?

His silence will only mean to the public that his much acclaimed audit reports have been reduced to trash by the minister’s explanation.