Malaysia

Soi Lek says Tourism Facebook pages incur more cost than personal ones

By Yow Hong Chieh
June 18, 2011

The MCA president said it was difficult to put a dollar figure to the creativity of the IT consultants used. — file picThe MCA president said it was difficult to put a dollar figure to the creativity of the IT consultants used. — file picKUALA LUMPUR, June 18 — The Facebook pages operated by the Tourism Ministry are “complicated” and cost more to run than similar personal pages on the world’s most popular social networking site, Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek said tonight

The MCA president waded into the controversy surrounding the RM1.8 million paid for six Facebook pages by the ministry helmed by party vice president Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen, saying it might cost nothing to start such pages but maintenance had costs.

He added that it was difficult to put a dollar figure to the creativity of the IT consultants used, which he suggested was the largest variable in the bill.

“That creativity, I don’t know how much they will charge,” he told reporters after attending a fundraising dinner at SMJK Chong Hwa here.

“It’s something that you cannot measure, not like the server and the software. That one you can quantify the amount.”

Dr Chua pointed out that the high-value of creativity was the reason the then 23-year-old Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg was named youngest billionaire by Forbes in 2008.

He, nonetheless, said he will request from Ng the minutes of yesterday’s Cabinet meeting, which was convened to seek clarification from her on the RM1.8 million outlay.

The Malaysian Insider, quoting sources, reported yesterday that Ng had been told not to waste time by her fellow ministers after it became clear she had no intention of providing a breakdown of the costs.

The debacle over the Tourism Ministry’s Facebook expenses began on Tuesday when Ng’s deputy, James Dawos Mamit, revealed in Parliament that RM1,758,432 had been spent developing six Facebook pages for the ministry.

He had said each of the six pages — Cuti-Cuti 1Malaysia, Citrawarna 1Malaysia, Karnival Jualan Mega 1Malaysia, Festival Pelancongan Seni Kontemporari 1Malaysia, Kempen 1Malaysia Bersih and Fabulous Food 1Malaysia — cost RM293,072.

The announcement drew condemnation from the online community, sparking a spontaneous campaign that same evening which invited thousands to condemn Ng’s exorbitant spending.

Her ministry first entered the spotlight late last year when it was revealed in Parliament that Ng had spent more for her official trips abroad despite slashing the tourism promotional budget.

Ng again came under fire after Tourism Malaysia’s former advertising agency alleged that the ministry had asked for bribes in exchange for a promotion contract.