Nothing but the best

(The Sun) – Aren’t we entitled to know how such a colossal amount was spent on day trips?

ALONE with just the PC in front of you and a calculator on the side, notions can sometimes run wild. A colleague sits on the other end banging away on the keyboard.

The thought of fairies must be dismissed but the appearance of a godmother with plenty of dough to spare is a possibility. Suddenly, the sight of the good lady waving wads of cash can also be a hallucination or a figment of one’s imagination.

But you are told by this imaginary godmother: “Head down to Singapore. Make a presentation and come back the same day. Just pamper yourself for just one day. No expenses spared and only the best. After all, you are not paying for it!”

So, off you go on the Net. The return air fare on Business Class (there’s no first class to Singapore) costs RM2,350. Add another couple of hundreds and you can fly to and return from London on cattle class!

For someone who believes there’s nothing extraordinary in the trappings offered on a shuttle service, suffering the inconvenience of being unable to stretch your legs for an hour is worth the effort. It would bring about savings of RM1,550. After all, it is not exactly cattle class and that sum could go for shopping? Would that be thrifty? No. The godmother decreed that you are entitled to nothing but the best.

How do you move around in Singapore? Taxi, of course because you can trust the drivers not to take you for a ride, literally. A direct trip from Changi to the conference venue won’t cost an arm and a leg, but hiring a chauffeur-driven limousine will. But who cares for the mode of transport you arrive in at the venue? You get dropped off at the hotel lobby and make your way to the hall.

Godmother keeps reminding me of having nothing but the best. Get back on the Net! It’s just S$120 (RM360) per hour and for six hours, it’s a whopping S$720 (about RM2,400). The chauffeur of the Mercedes S-Class will drive you anywhere you want to go on the island.

So, what about a decent meal? Conference organisers usually have a buffet line and you are not expected to queue with a plate in hand and dine with the lesser mortals because of your status.

Let’s do lunch at a decent place! TripAdvisor is there to assist. When you get on the Net, something catches your eye. It reads: “Jewel in Singapore” – the Fratini La Trattoria.

The reviewer describes the food as simple but the taste as extraordinary. Each dish is innovative and delicately balanced in taste. The ingredients complement each other. Staff are both attentive and friendly, he says.

What more can you ask for? For two, it would set you back S$270 (RM810) including glasses of Italian wine. For company, may be, you would invite someone you met or fancied at the conference.

Making allowances for lunch and the ride back to the airport, you still have three hours. What would you do? Instead of day-use room to rest, the Mandarin Oriental website gives you a choice. If you are an ageing auntie, here’s something to think about: Age repair facials.

For an hour and 20 minutes, it boasts of a highly effective anti-aging treatment that repairs the skin and works with natural oils of inca inchi and larch extract, which stimulate collagen formation to deliver firm and tightened skin. Skin is thoroughly cleansed, exfoliated, and is then massaged using lymphatic massage techniques to improve both suppleness and elasticity.

That would set you back S$280 (RM840). So, tote up the expenses and they come up to a grand total of RM6,400.

What would godmother say? I don’t see anyone but the colleague who says: “Boss, there’s something that has come in. You may be interested in it.”

It was a printout of a Malaysiakini report which said: Former tourism minister Dr Ng Yen Yen’s one-day trip to Singapore in June this year cost the government RM12,978.50 while another similar visit in February cost RM9,263.

In her capacity as Tourism Malaysia chairperson, Ng has gone on 14 official trips that came to a total cost of RM396,465.37, the news portal reported.

Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Nazri Abdul Aziz in replying to Seremban MP Anthony Loke (DAP) said that Ng had gone to Singapore in June to deliver a briefing for industry players at the MyFest2015 event. However, the day trip in February was just listed as a “working trip”.

Sitting there in silence, the calculator provided some answers. These figures were not picked from thin air; they came in the form of answers to a parliamentary question.

For godmother, the current exchange rate used was RM3 to the Singapore dollar. But in February and June, the rate was hovering around RM2.62.

Godmother’s supposed payment comes from her own pocket, but the expenses of government officials come from us – the taxpayers. Aren’t we entitled to know how such a colossal amount was spent on day trips?

POSTSCRIPT: Subsequently, over a year-end dinner with editors, the head-honcho of a public-listed company was asked: What would you do if one of your managers submitted a claim for RM6,000 for a day trip to Singapore?

The succinct and crisp answer was: “He won’t be around the following day to collect his money.”

R. Nadeswaran continues to demand for accountability, but it is hardly forthcoming from our government departments and agencies. Comments: [email protected]