Buying ‘goodwill’ – RM4 billion worth of it

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When are petroleum royalties not petroleum royalties? When they are deemed to be “goodwill funds”, of course.

If you suffer from insomnia, then wading through the Malaysian Auditor General’s report may be just the thing for you. But then again, what you find in there might give you even more sleepless nights. Just reading through one chapter of the report “inspired” me to write the following article for Aliran Monthly about the lack of accountability and transparency surrounding the Treasury’s management of royalties collected from oil extracted in states such as Terengganu. We are not talking peanuts here but big money….

Basically, the Treasury is supposed to make allocations out of the Fund to various ministries (and via these ministries to federal agencies), financial institutions, and federal and state-level offices.

According to the Auditor General’s Report 2005, in line with a directive, the Treasury was supposed to create an Accounts Committee, chaired by the Treasury’s Chief Secretary, to administer the Fund. The Committee was supposed to comprise representatives from the Prime Minister’s Department (including the Economic Planning Unit), the Treasury, and the Finance Ministry.

But the Auditor General (AG) said such a Committee had not been set up – surely a serious concern.

Instead, a “Central-level Committee”, which appears less high-powered, was formed. This Committee, which includes representatives from ministries and implementation agencies, meets twice a year to discuss and approve allocations. It is not clear who exactly is in this Committee. Full article

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